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summer bounty

July 18th, 2012 | Comments Off

It’s more than just food, sometimes.

July has shown us little mercy. She rises daily at dawn, consistent and sure of herself, simmering her heat and thick air giving little relief in the night hours. I’m stuffed through and through with her blistering melancholy, brought down by hot winds, the white haze of mid-summer and a relentless, calculating sun. I snack on watermelon slices, thick with juice and snapping cold against my teeth, lush ripe cherries that burst in my mouth, forcing a wave of juice down my throat, nearly choking me in glorious abundance. My plate piles with deep green leaves, scattered with tiny radish and beets, shaved strips of deep red carrots, burnished fingers of grilled zucchini. I bite down on corn cobs that spray sweet white milk over my cheeks, lush with mashed avocado, squeaking tart lime and the right touch of salt. I wither. I rise, and repeat. My oven seems lonely. I forget what pants feel like and the washer spins over and over with white linen, flippy cotton skirts, the most minimal of clothing. I’ve lost count on the number of pitchers of iced tea I’ve brewed, the ounces of water consumed daily as a means to keep moving. I pin up my hair, thick with humid curls and dream ever so slightly of cutting it all off. Which I won’t. Come Winter, through bitter winds and snow, I’ll press it to my neck for warmth and remember this July. This heat, choked and hard that descended on us without respite.

But the rains come, thankfully. Blessedly. There is no scent more beautiful than that of the rain falling on a parched earth. With thunder rolling and wind in the trees, it’s a melody of riches for the heat weary soul. I press my face to the screen, taking in deep lungfuls of fresh wet air, reveling in the sound of water rushing past my ears and the earth drinking heavily of this bounty. It revives me; lifts me and lightens the spirit. I feel giddy, like a girl; thinking to run and dance in rejoicing at this gift from above. But instead, I watch, mesmerized at the patterns of droplets on stone, like snowflakes no two the same, each bringing sweet relief.

I love this season called Summer, even with it’s scorched sun and grass, with it’s heat, humidity and drapery drawn against the day, the endless bounty of life-sustaining foods, the inexpensive means to feed us, body and soul, sun on bare skin, the smell of warm grass, the light at 9pm.

Or even later than that.

{{ taken by Bald Eagle Lake, late June around 10:10pm }}

I don’t tire of this heat, as tiring as it can be on me; I know as soon as Summer wends it’s way towards September and tomato plants wilt against the inevitable downfall of their life span and the calendar pages turn that it will be missed. It’s a yearly struggle of self vs. elements, attempting to embrace the present without fail, to move through the days in the swelter of high Summer, no word of complaint falling from my lips for I know in my lifetime of this season, it’s as brief as a spark, or a thunderstorm that breaks up the endless pattern of scalding sunshine. It’s embedded deep in my bones with my DNA, my lifetime of July, followed by years of sultry August, right on the heels of exalted and sweet September.

tying up the heart songs

October 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

I look around the table at the women gathered there and I’m caught, just a bit, by the warmth and authenticity sitting with me. I feel blessed, and caught up in the moment of our conversations, of life and marriage, parenting and food and everything in between.

It’s chilly, and clear, but the wind is gusting hard against the old patio doors, making them rattle and throb in the gale. It is October, after all, and no one came here expecting to sunbathe and swim. We knew we’d find bare trees and dry brown grass, and everyone brought slippers or warm socks. Several people came with thick blankets to help ward off the chill of an October night.

But at this moment, no one is thinking about the cold hard wind outside. Because when you gather eight women who are all passionate about food, amazing things happen and we lay it out before us, gazing at the repast with gleaming eyes, exclaiming over the sight. We pour wine in to glass jars and pull up our chairs. Fragrant soup simmers and there is never a break in the conversation as we segue from one topic to the next, easily, like we’ve done this all our lives. Several of us have only met, just today and the moment the cabin door opened and the laughter swept in from the yard. But we know each other, as old friends, regardless of how much face time we’ve had. It’s inherent, this tribe. We have a bond and we just know, in our hearts that we belong here.

Outside the cold bright day turns to a brisk and clear night. There is warmth inside those rattling glass doors that the chilly Autumn night can’t chase away. We sit over homemade salsa and tortilla chips, freshly made bacon jam with crackers and toasted bread, deeply flavored roasted nuts. The promise of warm soup hangs in the air, and there is more bread, delicious and healthy salads and the conversation that feeds us, on and on, an endless succession of nurturing topics, filled with appetizing laughter.

There is more wine poured, glass jars clink on the table and plates come out. Bowls are set near the stove and a ladle dipped in to the pot, drawing forth a steaming amount to smell, while quiet smiles play across faces rich with anticipation. There is no one in this room who isn’t wholly in love with food, passionate about it in every way; who loves to feed others, who lives to share the bounty. They are kindred, these women, these beings that I love. There is a depth to the emotion that runs further than I could have imagined. Food sustains them, and they sustain others with it, through emotions, and heart songs and old glass jars. Through fragrant bread studded with herbs, through kicky salsa that dances on your tongue. Beyond the crackers, and the tortilla chips, there isn’t a processed item in sight. We love our food in exactly the way it should be; freshly and lovingly made.

The darkness outside is impenetrable now, and the dishes are cleared and washed. We slowly move to the sofa, the comfy chairs. Blankets are drawn over full tummies, feet pulled up and tucked under for warmth and yet the conversation never stops. No topic is exhausted or drained from our lips. Now there is dessert, and coffee to give us a brisk resurgence, but soon the home brewed beer is brought out and we taste, slowly sipping, loving the results. It’s close to midnight before we admit defeat and stumble sleepily, happily and with stuffed tummies and hearts, in to our beds.

The morning is more clear sunshine and sustained winds, a humming furnace and sleepy smiles. “I slept like a rock.” resounds from every mouth that appears, eyes relaxed and dreamy, arms wrapped tight in a cocoon of contentment. The coffee pot bubbles and we slip easily into conversation, watching out the windows to a morning rising bright and clear over the lake outside. Breakfast, again, is a dizzy array of fresh baked quick breads, creamy scrambled eggs dredged through with colorful vegetables, the ripest and juiciest pears and apples plucked fresh from the trees only days ago. We’re quieter, more relaxed. We smile and need no reason. We just are; in the moment, right here with our tribe, right where we need to be.

With a sigh, we rise and clean and organize and pack and hug and hug and hug again and laugh and wander across the crunchy leaves to the waiting cars, calling out, again, a goodbye, a thank you, smiles so wide that it seems to split our faces right in two. I close the door against the battering winds and face the empty cabin, the incredible array of foods they’ve left for me to enjoy. My heart is full, the song played out with a few last fading notes to a silence that feels rich, yet forlorn.

They’ll be back again. This much I know.


Please visit —–> The Extraordinary Ordinary
It’s Week Six of Just Write Tuesdays.

kitchen insight, and 3-Bean Chili

November 9th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

Here’s the thing about the works going on in my kitchen; they aren’t perfect or always balanced although I do strive for the most nutritional value I can find. We don’t dine exquisitely, sampling wonderful fare every night. I don’t pore through cookbook after cookbook stuffing pages with notes, markings, tabs and ratings. Sometimes I don’t cook at all. Sometimes we graze. Sometimes I just look at my husband and ask him to go get us a pizza. Sometimes he does.

This is a Calzone stuffed with veggies and cheese and made with scratch dough. Mike did not bring this home.

I make burgers from scratch, and lots of soup. We do make our own pizza including dough for the crust, so those pizza seeking forays I send Mike on are fairly uncommon. We eat a lot of chicken, and we eat fish and pork. Beef is rare in our house but on occasion I will splurge on a good steak dinner for The Carnivore and I. I stock a good pantry with lots of canned goods like beans, tomatoes, tuna, salmon, rice and grains and other items that can help me to put a good meal together if I get stuck. I get stuck a lot. My husband loves vegetables and doesn’t care for much meat. My Teen loves meat. Every day. He eats vegetables but only grudgingly. Making these two happy isn’t always the easiest feat. But I do the majority of the cooking so I make what I want. If they don’t want to eat it, it’s not my problem. I’m no one’s short order cook. It works for us. I understand that it doesn’t work that way for everyone. But please don’t ask me what to do about your picky eater because I probably will tell you and you probably won’t like it.

That’s a Mediterranean Tuna Antipasto Salad. It was stellar.

Keeping a well-stocked kitchen, including pantry and freezer is vital to making dinnertime less of a hassle. Outside of a good stocked pantry, I keep my chest freezer full. I buy frozen vegetables like peas, green beans and corn (the only ones I think taste good from their frozen state). I keep lots of bread in the freezer, and hamburger buns, always stocking up when it’s on sale. I keep packages of frozen tilapia on hand. The brand I buy has individually wrapped filets in it that thaw quickly, making it a good option for last minute ideas. Like yesterday. At 4:00pm I had no clue what I was making for dinner. But by 5:30, we were eating Fish Tacos with rice and a Chipotle Corn Relish. And it all came out of the pantry or the freezer. On the plus side, I used up a few leftover items in the refrigerator from previous meals so there was utilization there as well. I’m not the type of cook that makes up two meals and freezes the second one, although sometimes I have. It’s nice when I do. I wish I was prone to do more of that.

This is version 1.0 of the Fish Taco. This is not last night’s Fish Taco,

I don’t write menu plans each week, opting instead to make a large list of foods that I wish to cook. These are ideas that are not regular occurrences in our kitchen, options that may require some ingredient to be on hand in order to make the dish. Like our favorite Healthy Sloppy Joes. Or Thai Thighs. Or Griffin’s favorite Indian Chicken, or the Jambalaya he loves. This list is where I try out new recipes and ideas. Some of them work. Some do not. If they’re wonderful and I think others would enjoy them too, then I will blog about them. I don’t blog about everything we eat or cook because that would be ridiculous. We have lots of repeats in our meals, and there are always food items on hand to make these repeats. The list is a guideline, and I shop from this list so I know what I can make based on what’s available.

That’s Roasted Rutabaga topped with Poached Eggs. Simple. Divine. Perfect.

And grocery shopping; we have a budget that we try to stick with. Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. We don’t eat out much due to financial constraints. When we do eat out, I like it to be at places that make food I can’t make at home so often our choices for dining out run to ethnic restaurants. We don’t do fast food although Griffin will eat it. When I grocery shop I use a list 90% of the time and I stick to it, avoiding any aisles that I don’t need to wander down. I rarely buy on impulse although I will purchase items on sale if I find them and then I try to utilize them if they aren’t on my meal list. I look at grocery ads but I don’t use coupons because I rarely find any that are for foods we eat. If I see a good sale at the grocer, I will stock up. I will make a special trip for it too if it’s worth it. Boneless chicken breasts on sale 2-for-1 is worth a trip. Kleenex on sale is not.


Nutella Pound Cake anyone?

I bake too, although not as much as I wish because I think my thighs are already a bit too chunky. But I make muffins, scones, quick breads, cakes, cookies and all other manner of yummy sweet treats. Many of these are for special occasions, like the cakes. My favorite items to bake are the muffins and quick breads. Griffin is good at making cookies and enjoys it a lot.

And speaking of that boy, he’s really stepped up his game in the kitchen and lately has made us some incredible meals. His confidence is much, much better and his skill is increasing exponentially. I love it when he cooks. Love. It.

I have a cupboard of cookbooks and I love them all but I don’t utilize them as much as I should. I have some go-to books for everything and my most favorite one is the Cooks Illustrated Best New Recipe. It’s a freaking monster of a book but it’s loaded with CI’s anal and detail oriented works and I know that the recipes are fool-proof and perfect. I have books I use for adding healthier recipes to our diet; I have ones that steer me towards comfort foods that I crave on occasion and cookbooks that I turn to for fancier inspiration. I have a few reference books to help me with questions, like the Food Lovers Companion. I have a few books that help me figure out substitutions if I somehow run out of an ingredient. I have some ethnic cookbooks that make me sigh with delight. A great deal of the inspiration I find for our meals comes from my food magazines – I get Eating Well, Bon Appetit and Saveur – and of course, the amazing and varied talent of my fellow food blogging friends.

Like these ladies. Just a handful of the local crew- fom left to right: Kelli, Amanda, Shaina, Stephanie, me and Crystal.

The wealth of information about food and cooking is staggering out there, and there’s something for everyone. It’s both overwhelming, frustrating (because there is a lot of BAD stuff out there too, and plenty of misinformation) and yet it’s also wonderful, varied, engaging and encouraging. This post is just about what I do, and as I said, it doesn’t work for everyone but this is what works for us. Our kitchen is truly the hum that resonates throughout our entire home, and also out into the world via this blog.

And just for kicks, I’m passing along one of my favorite and quick pantry recipes for 3-Bean Chili.

I love this steaming and soothing pot of chili and it comes together so fast (well, if you have the items on hand) and yet it tastes like it simmered all day. Full of fresh peppers, along with three kinds of canned beans and a big can of tomatoes, it’s so satisfying and good for you. Skip the bacon if it isn’t your thing. We never use it in this recipe but I imagine it adds amazing flavor.

Quick Three Bean Chili

From Food and Wine magazine, April 2008

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 slices of bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips
1 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 jalapeños, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup chili powder
One 15-ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Chopped cilantro and sour cream, for serving

In a medium soup pot, heat the oil until hot. Add the bacon, onion, jalapeños and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until the onion is softened and the bacon fat has been rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the chili powder and cook over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the beans, tomatoes and stock and bring to a simmer. Simmer the chili over moderately low heat until thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with cilantro and sour cream.Kate’s Notes: I used a can of chili beans- pinto beans in chili spices, unrinsed! – in place of regular pinto beans; I had it on hand and it worked beautifully. I also reduced the chili powder to 2 tablespoons due to the presence of the chili spices in the beans.

unveiling my passions

June 27th, 2010 | 8 Comments »

It seems like this past year has put me in contact with a large number of very passionate people; people who love what they do whether it’s their chosen vocation, their family or a particular cause. Being around them is almost addictive. There’s a glow, a determination and a sense of joy in them when they discuss what they love, what drives them and makes them soar. I love seeing it, being around it and sharing in it as well. There’s plenty in my life that I feel strongly about, aspects of it that bring a deep sense of peace to me, that fill me with happiness. I bet you think I’m talking about food, don’t you? Well sort of, but it’s only one area of my life that I’m passionate about. My friend Missy, who writes the blog The Marketing Mama, is sharing her passion and asked for others to chime in and play along. I can’t imagine a better person to share a passionate and engaging conversation with; Missy is one of the amazing women I’ve been blessed to meet and connect with this past year through our blog networking group. She’s got a strong finger on the pulse of life around her, a smile to light up any room and a wicked sense of humor.

So, to join in on her expressions of all things we love and hold dear to us, allow me to share these simple aspects of my life that bring me an immense amount of joy and make my heart swell with gladness. I’m not one to climb to the rooftops to shout out what stirs my heart, and I’m not one to push a cause or a lifestyle or anything so subjective. For me, it’s the little things that make my life perfect.

Like Delphiniums.

This year, whether due to the copious rain that has drenched our area or just the maturity of the plants, these Delphinium that are growing in one of my garden beds have simply exploded with blooms. Deep blue and so beautifully shaped, the flowers are stunning and I just can’t get enough of their beauty. I love my flower gardens, and the way that Nature just works itself out in multitudes of color, shape, texture and time. There are days that I walk through my yard and am stunned by what’s going on, not to mention humbled that my hands did this kind of work. It isn’t much, but it’s mine. And it’s one way I can share a god-given gift with others.

Then there’s these guys.

Someday is entirely possible that I will qualify as a crazy cat lady. I am crazy about cats, and these two in particular. Eli, on the left, has been a godsend into our lives. Losing Harmon was the hardest time I’ve gone through in recent memory, and Eli came along just at the right moment, full of love to give and hungry to be loved back. Bustopher is happier with a friend, and our hearts are healing from our loss.

There’s Loveless too.

It’s a perfect sanctuary from the hectic pace of life and I do miss it with all the work I’ve been doing this summer, but recently I spent a blissful nothing type of day there, sitting on the screen porch watching the rain fall on the lake all day long. That may not sound like fun to most, but it was a much needed day off from work, and from life and I needed it like pure oxygen. It’s a place that lives in my very core, that I love beyond description and wish I could bring every single one of you there for a day just to see it and enjoy it.

I’m passionate about my family too, as any Mother would be. Watching my young man grow, mature, change and embrace the life he’s leading is a beautiful thing to see. He has some amazing roads ahead of him to explore and I can’t wait to see where his life’s journey takes him. He’s polite, kind, warm-hearted and generous. He’s funny, corny, silly and smart as a whip. And the boy LOVES his food.

Which brings me, rightly, to what I am most passionate about each waking day of my life. You knew we’d get there, didn’t you? It’s not hard to be passionate about food these days, with the Farmers Markets bursting full of the fresh bounty from the Earth. How can you NOT get excited about fresh strawberries?

Or a delightful poached egg over fresh baby zucchini sauteed with garlic scapes?

But it really goes beyond just the freshness and far beyond what time of year it is, as it’s much more about how your body feels when it’s nurtured with good food. There’s nothing more to it than that. What goes into our bodies has a huge effect on our well-being, our ability to learn at school or to do our jobs properly, to keep us sharp and focused so we can concentrate, to help our immune system be as strong as possible so we can stay healthy to enjoy our lives. I’ve seen enormous change in my own life from the foods that I eat, and notice immediately when I’ve been slipping away from the right path and eating too much junk. If there’s one area of my life that I could talk about all day long, it’s definitely food, diet, cooking and consumption. It’s my blood, my life and what God gave me to give to others.

So what are YOU passionate about?

Missy got a good response to her call about passion. See what my friends say about their own passions!

Missy

Kate-Madonna

Suzi

Cindy

Monika

Jenny

Nourishment

January 14th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

Thank you for the kind get-well wishes and emails. I appreciated them a lot.  Mercifully, the illness that swept in so quickly, leaving me flat on the couch for three days, left just as swiftly as it arrived. I suffered mostly a numbing fatigue and head congestion, lacking energy to do much of anything except stare out the window.

And read. I blame my current thought process on the book at hand, ‘ A Slice of Life- Contemporary Writers on Food’ that has followed me around lately. It was an ‘A-HA’ find at Half Price Books- oh, probably back in the Fall, before holiday stuff, before the chill of Winter set in, before the lethargy that inevitably follows Christmas and New Years. It got dropped into a magazine rack and forgotten. When I pulled it out it was covered in dust. So well I treat my belongings.

But then I opened it and got swept away. It all started to make sense to me with just a few pages, this nagging sense of why, and how. Why do we constantly search for the perfect meal, the best ingredient, the finest eating experience? How do we achieve it, and better yet, maintain and hold on to it? And what exactly are we looking for anyway?

Outside of the pages of that book, I began to find my answer in a slice of this tea bread and the comfort of a favored, but cracked tea cup.tea-bread-009

So it’s no secret to me that when I bake I feel like I am channeling my mother’s spirit, the one that would wake at dawn in the summer to bake cookies before the sun burned the air crisp and dry; this is simple for my mind to deduct, but there has always been something else that nags at me, and with the first bite of anything I make, I take from it several things. One- it’s comfort in the true sense of the word. Nothing touches us deeper than homebaked something, anything. We can eat a store-bought chocolate chip cookie, or nibble on a slice of bread from a plastic bag, but it really doesn’t touch us. It doesn’t soothe.  The second has always been far more elusive, and less attainable and finally I know what it is. It’s the taste of home, and I think for most of us, it’s the one missing element in everything we cook.

This is not to say that we can’t find comfort in the foods we eat, the meals we prepare for others, but what is it, with Christmas still within a memory’s grasp, that makes us want to recreate ‘the meals we used to know’? Why is it so important for people to sit down- let’s say at holiday time- to a meal of familiar foods, the same tastes and textures we grew up with? Isn’t anyone interested in something new? No. We’re interested in being home.

In each bite, each dish we make or cookie baked or cake decorated, aren’t we just a wee bit eager to find that one spot in us that tells us, without a doubt, that we’re home again? Isn’t it why we search high and low for the perfect cookie recipe, try a dozen methods of roasting chicken, bake loaf after loaf of banana bread in a futile search for a missing ingredient that we’re never going to find? This is why home-cooking has become such an explosive and highly demanded part of our lives, why we gather at the table with eager eyes; it isn’t so much the food, it’s what the food can bring to us that nothing else can.

Take that banana bread, the reason for this post. My mother made banana bread all the time. I can picture our kitchen- it was small and so very dated- dulled yellow walls and a deeply blue and green carpet- carpet! in the kitchen!- the dishwasher we had to attach to the faucet, the jar of bacon grease on the stove. I can recall leaning on the counter, the southern window at my back, nibbling away at a slice of her banana bread, a small pile of unwanted walnuts growing on the counter next to my elbow. I loved her banana bread; she purposefully would buy too many bananas so that she could make it. It was perfectly flecked with banana, it smelled wonderful and she beamed with every loaf. I even have her recipe, yellowed as those walls, frail and old, crinkling at the edges. But I make the loaves and it doesn’t taste the same. I’m at my own kitchen counter with the bright southern light, my dishwasher tucked under the counter, no bacon grease in sight. But the recipe is the same and shouldn’t it taste like I remember? It never does. Something is always missing. It’s not the essence of those despised walnuts, or the scene out the window of my youth. It isn’t a method of her own that I never learned. It’s her kitchen; it’s her warmth and love, the very scent of home. We can have our own places we call home, and they feel that way to us the moment we step in the door. We turn out the lights and know, by heart and finger touch, just how to walk through the rooms. But what we make in our own kitchens, even with a treasured recipe, never seems to taste exactly like we remember.  An old friend once extolled the merits of the Italian foods she ate while working on that continent, and her extreme disappointment, upon opening a small bottle of olive oil that she brought home, a favored flavor while “on the boot” to find that, in her words “It tasted just like any old olive oil. It wasn’t anything like I remembered.” Of course not. She wasn’t in Italy. The banana bread is the same thing; it’s the exact same recipe I ate when I was young, but I’m eating it on another continent, a figurative place that’s a whole lifetime away from what I remember. It’s the tea cup in our lives, with the crack that makes it imperfect, one we can’t throw out.

tea-bread-012

Growing up, our meals weren’t stellar. My mom wasn’t that great of a cook; she could cook, but it wasn’t creative, nor with an eye towards health. I have no fondness for much from my childhood, except an occasional meat loaf, or my own grown up version of Tuna Pasta. I still recall vividly a recipe I made two years ago that reminded me so much of an over-served childhood meal that I simply couldn’t eat it. There is no love lost for my food memories as a kid, what I eat now is all my doing, my likes and for my health.  Griffin has many favorites that I make, one being his absolute beloved Curry Chicken. This was on the menu last night and I made sure that the quantity was large enough for him to load up on without depriving the rest of us. To see his eyes as he leapt down the stairs, and his eager dance around the stove, lifting the spoon, taking in the scent, I had to think to myself that somewhere in his future, he’s going to pull out what he needs for his favorite meal, in a kitchen of his own, maybe with an eager child waiting. He’ll have the same turmeric-stained spoon, the reliable straight side skillet to use, the same method and recipe, and with his first bite, will he lift his head, his mind wondering ‘Hey, what’s this missing?’

Applesauce Banana Bread

· 4 Bananas — ripe
· 1/2 c. Sugar
· 3/4 c. Applesauce
· 1 T. Vanilla Extract
· 2 Eggs
· 1 T. Baking Soda
· 1 T. Baking Powder
· 1 t. Salt
· 2 c. AP Flour


Preheat oven to
350 F. Place bananas in a large bowl and mash with fork. Stir in sugar and let stand for 15 minutes.
Add applesauce, vanilla and eggs, mix well. Stir dry ingredients together, add to banana mix and blend only until incorporated. Pour into standard loaf pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake for 45 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes before removing from pan. Cool on wire rack.

For the Chicken Curry recipe, the only one I use,  go HERE.




A milestone, and pretty in pink

November 7th, 2008 | 5 Comments »

Unbeknown to me, yesterday’s post about Men Making Dinner and Nacho Day was my 500th post on this blog.  That kind of blows my mind; I’ve been at this a long time- yes, 2 1/2 years to be exact- and I’m rather prolific with words so really, it shouldn’t come as any surprise.

Nor should it be any surprise that when you roast root vegetables that include beets, everything will be PINK!

roasted-roots-004

Pretty pink and richly colored, in fact; staining your couscous and your bowl, but filling your tummy and taking the edge off the raw wind that came up.

And the national food holiday today? It’s Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day and I thought about seeking out this concoction and spending copiuos amounts of time bestowing praise on such a delicious combination but then I spotted this roasted vegetable dish and all thoughts of chocolate scampered out the window. I should be declared something- possibly certifiable?-  when veggies take precedence over chocolate.

But like I said, the wind turned raw and the rain was pouring down and after our early week flirtation with the 70′s in November- temperatures, not the decade mind you- the chill and damp that came over us was harsh and required not a candy to bring relief but something warming, deeply satisfying and a hot oven.

The original recipe, found here in our local paper’s award-winning Taste section, caught my eye and made me drool; an array of vegetables roasted to tender melting goodness and served over super-simple couscous. With my little carnivore heading out with his beloved Uncle Mike to the Gopher basketball game, it would be a welcome dinner for us- no meat yet tons of flavor.

roasted-roots-005

Beets, rutabaga, parsnips, eggplant, carrots and tomato were my combination, doused with olive oil, a sprinkle of thyme, salt and pepper and a long roast in a 400 degree oven. I knew the outcome even before I started, but the beets were small and tender and I didn’t care if they bloodied my dish. The chopped beet greens added a nice color and tons more nutrients-don’t ever throw those away!! They taste like spinach and are SO good for you. And the nicest part about the whole dish was, as we sat down with steaming bowls in front of us, Mike declared with a high amount of enthusiasm “I love beet greens!” which was the smallest little detail ever, but after six years of marriage, I never even knew this about him. Imagine that! This was, by and large for the blustery night, a much better option than chocolate.

nablopomo21
To roast your own:
Take one eggplant, one rutabaga, three parsnips, three carrots and one bunch of beets (mine had three in it) and cut them into uniform chunks. Place them in a roasting pan and pour about 1/3 cup of oil over them and add seasoning of choice. Stir to coat. Roast at 400 degrees, stirring after about a half hour. Roughly chop three tomatoes (minus the seedy pulp) and scatter over vegetables at the 30 min. mark. Continue roasting for 15-20 more minutes, then stir. Everything will be PINK. Saute the cleaned and chopped beet greens separately and stir into the veggies before serving, or serve on the side.

Prepare quick-cooking couscous, polenta or another base of choice and serve roasted veggies over this, sprinkled with some fresh grated parmesan cheese.

Delicious additions to the veggies could be: garbanzo beans, kalamata olives, celery root, turnips…..really the sky is the limit, or your personal taste. Leave out the beets if you don’t like PINK.

Skordalia or Potato Cake??

October 20th, 2008 | 4 Comments »

Skordalia- (skor DAHL yah) A greek condiment made from pureed baked potato, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, parsley and sometimes breadcrumbs or ground nuts. Eaten as a dip with breads or vegetables, it can also be used on top of broiled meats.

Potato Cake- (po TAY to kayke) A hearty and delicious meal made from leftover skordalia (or other mashed potato type item) that is fried in a hot skillet until crispy and browned.

Mmmmm….I love mashed potato cakes. I originally found a procedure to make them in a Sara Moulton cookbook and now I often will hide the leftover mashed potatoes in an effort to save them for a crunchy potato cake breakfast.

Then along came Skordalia. I had a small plateful at a local greek restaurant and wanted to lick the thing clean, it tasted so good. But I was in public so I restrained myself. The next day I hit the internet search to find a recipe to make for myself. The result wasn’t too bad- it wasn’t like the restaurant version- but it was palatable after the ingredients were allowed to hang in the fridge to get cozy and acquainted after being rapidly introduced in the food processor. The longer the stuff sits, the better it seems to taste, but like all potato leftovers in my house, I dreamed of a hot and tasty cake.

The procedure is pretty simple; form leftover mashed potato into a uniform sized cake and dust each side with flour. Heat a combination of oil and butter in a skillet, and when hot, gently place the cake in the pan. Don’t move it or disturb it until the bottom has achieved a nice crunchy browned crust- it could take 10 minutes or more- then carefully turn it over and allow the other side to brown as well. Keep the heat around the medium mark. Once cooked, allow to cool before eating- if it’s like some of mine, the center of the cake becomes a creamy molten flow of cooked potato and can be painful if your patience is lacking. Try it with a slice of seared ham, some eggs and a cup of strong coffee. Breakfast just can’ t be beat when there’s a potato cake on the table.

(jump for recipe and notes)

Come in to my kitchen…

Overnight Muesli

September 29th, 2008 | 8 Comments »

Overnight Apple-Date Muesli
By Robin Asbell, The New Whole Grains Cookbook

1/2 c. slivered almonds
2 medium apples
1 1/2 c. nut milk, or other milk
2 T. maple syrup
1 1/2 c. thick rolled oats
1/4 c. soy protein powder (optional)
1/2 c. pitted dates

Preheat oven to 325 and spread almonds on a baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Let cool.

Get out a large storage tub or bowl with a lid. Quarter the apples and core, then shred right into the bowl, skin and all. Add remaining ingredients, including almonds, and stir well to combine. Cover tightly and place in refrigerator overnight.

In the morning, stir thoroughly. Spoon desired amount into individual bowls and serve cold, or warm in the microwave for up to 2 minutes per bowl.

KATE’S NOTES:
I tried this the first time with the protein powder and decided I didn’t care for it, but that’s just me. I always, always, always add in about 2-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed to this, regardless. I double it and we enjoy it for several days. It will get softer and a bit less flavorful the longer it sits, but if you’re like us, it rarely lasts that long.

I am not a fan of dates but I. Love. Figs. so I chop those up into it instead. The variations on this, like I said, are infinite. Use raisins, currants, dried cherries, craisins, dried apricots or any type of dried fruit you like in any combination; vary the apple flavor by going tart or sweet; add in a multitude of nuts, use other cereal flakes, like barley. Skip the maple syrup or use an alternative, like raw or maple sugar sprinkled over the top before you eat it. Give it your own fingerprint and I’m sure it will also become a favorite for you.