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roasted vegetable pasta

November 18th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

There’s a lot of cowboy in me. Not the horse-ridin’ spur-wearin’ giddy-up-ing cowboy, but the kind that understands ‘Cowboy Cooking’ as a necessary culinary term.

Most people these days better understand the term ‘Iron Chef’ though, thanks to the ubiquitous presence of the Food Network. Cowboy cooking, or Iron Chef-ing is where you take a whole bunch of ingredients and come up with a dish that is nothing short of fantastic. It’s a skill that has served me well in my kitchen.

This roasted vegetable pasta dish was a stellar example of that. It’s from last winter and was a repeated entree in our kitchen for the remainder of the season.  All you do is roast up a pan of your favorite vegetables until they are fragrant and soft, then process them in a food processor to a chunky sauce. Mix them with a hefty pasta shape, add some grated parmesan and grab your fork. It works equally well to just toss them with pasta as is after roasting.

The sauce is versatile enough to also be used as an appetizer, topping crostini or another sturdy base.

And uh yeah….. ew; this photo is NOT my favorite, yet it’s what I get trying to photograph food in Minnesota during the month of February. Ugh. Sorry.

It really tastes FAR better than this looks. I promise! Yee haw!! Let’s get cookin’!

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, cut into eighths
1 red pepper, seeded cored and cut into large chunks
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4-6 cloves garlic, rough chopped into large pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 # rigatoni
Fresh parmesan cheese
Chopped kalamata olives

Place vegetables into a large bowl. Pour about 1/8 c. of olive oil over them, salt and pepper and maybe some dried seasoning of your choice. Toss to coat. Place on cookie sheets and roast in a 400-degree oven for 25-35 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Gently stir once during the cooking.

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving about 2 cups of pasta water and keep pasta warm. Place roasted vegetables in food processor and add a cup of reserved pasta water and 1/8 c. olive oil. Process until mixture is chunky, scrape down sides and process to desired consistency. If mix is too thick, add some more pasta water. You want it to be spreadable but not drippy, thick but not gloppy.

Toss vegetable mix with warm pasta. You may not need it all so scoop accordingly. Toss to coat pasta, add in kalamata olives (if desired) and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

And remember when I recently talked about that yummy Panko Crumb topping? Hello, and giddyup …..it works perfect here.

behold the brownie

November 17th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

Brownies are awesome, let me just get this out of the way. I can’t think of anything I like more than a good chewy brownie. Especially one from the edge of the pan where there might be a bit of dense crust that gets a little hard, more intensely chewy. Those are the best ones. And a corner piece? Rapture.

I’ve always loved brownies, and all forms of them too. I like them with chocolate chips and without. I like them with toffee bits in them, I like them swirled with cheesecake, studded with some nuts or topped with a thick layer of ganache. I like brownies. And they have a special place in my heart in regards to my child too, because I have the fondest memory of my boy at the tender age of five, with a very loose tooth on the bottom- his first to be exact- and he had taken a brownie that was a little harder than normal since it was a few days old. He was sitting at our tiny little kitchen table happily chewing away when he suddenly got this look on his face that was a combination of panic and elation.

“My tooth came out!” He exclaimed loudly. Then he opened his brownie filled mouth, reached in and withdrew his tooth, holding it out to me in the palm of his hand, thoroughly covered in chocolate. He was thrilled and smiled widely, while chocolate-y drool seeped over his lips. Then he did what any kid in his place does;  out of sheer excitement, he opened his mouth to show me the empty gap. Yep. His mushed up brownie filled mouth. He was five. What else do you do but smile and praise him?

And then tell that story over and over again for the next 11 years. I couldn’t help it. What a memory!

These Brownies likely won’t ever cause a tooth to come out; they’re fudgey, moist and perfectly dense with a delectable chocolate taste. What they are, also, is really low in fat. I like that in a brownie, and I like even more when you get a product that’s low in fat that doesn’t taste that way at all. These are a quintessential brownie experience, a blast of rich chocolate, a sure-fire solution to that sullen mood, crappy day or the loudly demanding desire for something deliciously chocolate.

Indulge at your own risk, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Dark Fudgy Brownies
from Eating Well magazine, Jan/Feb 2007

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, American-style or Dutch-process
3 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate (50-72% cacao), coarsely chopped, plus 2 1/2 ounces chopped into mini chip-size pieces, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup blended with 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with foil, letting it overhang on two opposing sides. Coat with cooking spray.

Sift flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together into a small bowl. Combine the 3 ounces coarsely chopped chocolate and oil in a heavy medium saucepan; place over the lowest heat, stirring, until just melted and smooth, being very careful the chocolate does not overheat. Remove from the heat and stir in granulated sugar, corn syrup mixture, vanilla and salt until the sugar dissolves. Vigorously stir in egg until smoothly incorporated. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts (if using) and the remaining 2 1/2 ounces chopped chocolate just until well blended. It will be VERY thick.  Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading evenly.

Bake the brownies until almost firm in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with some moist batter clinging to it, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 1/2 hours.

Using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully lift the brownie slab from the pan. Peel the foil from the bottom; set the slab right-side up on a cutting board. Cut into desired size. Can be frozen. In fact, they are amazing from the freezer. Like killer good fudge.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per brownie: 86 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 11 mg cholesterol; 15 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 0 g fiber; 19 mg sodium; 25 mg potassium.

1 Carbohydrate Serving Exchanges: 1 other carbohydrate

gnocchi to the rescue

November 15th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

Let’s think for a moment, about fast, simple meals with a high nutritional content. Let’s think about those first minutes in the door after a day at work, when your stomach is beginning to show signs of distress and you don’t even want to change your clothes before deciding on dinner. Let’s think, for just a minute, that you don’t pick up the phone and call the pizza guy.

Instead, you reach for a package of gnocchi.

Gnocchi are potato dumplings and extremely versatile. Cooked potato is mixed with flour to form a dough, which is then rolled out and cut into the dumpling shape. The gnocchi are boiled like pasta. They can also be made with yams and sweet potato, possibly squash too. I’ve never made gnocchi from scratch. From what I understand it can be a bit challenging to get the texture right; too much flour and the dumplings are dense and heavy, too little flour and they fall apart.

Gnocchi can be used in many similar ways as pasta- added to soup, turned into a delicious gratin with assorted vegetables or made into a quick meal, sauteed with your favorite vegetables and boneless chicken breast if you so desire. That’s what I did in the photo. It was an amazing dish, and it came together very fast and was full of wonderful flavor.

They’re available frozen, or in vacuum sealed shelf-stable packages. I’ve seen them in regular and whole wheat versions.

Gnocchi In a Flash
adapted from Eating Well magazine
1 pkg shelf stable gnocchi
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cut to strips (meat is totally optional in this dish)
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, cut to strips
1 bunch spinach, washed and de-stemmed (equal to a 10-oz bag)
1/4 c. canned diced tomato with italian seasonings
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice
1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil to garnish

Season chicken breast strips with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until strips are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl. Add red pepper and cook 3-5 minutes until tender. Add to chicken. Wipe out skillet with paper towel and add about a teaspoon of oil. When hot, add gnocchi and cook about 5 minutes until browned and slightly puffy. Add chicken and pepper to pan, and in bunches, add in spinach, stirring quickly until it’s all wilted. Toss in diced tomato and mozzarella cubes and shave some parmesan over the top. Stir to mix and allow to cook for 3 minutes or so until hot. Serve immediately topped with fresh basil.

Change up the vegetables according to your preferred tastes.

quietly weekend-ing

November 14th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

The snow stopped and we received about a foot of wet, heavy white stuff. I was pretty grateful that it arrived on the weekend and about our only need to accomplish was cleaning off the driveway and sidewalks. It was so nice not to have to go anywhere. We spent some time knocking the thick clumps off neighbor’s trees and bushes as it was so heavy that it was bending them nearly in half. We also saw plenty of downed tree branches today on our way to church.

The down time afforded us an opportunity to work up a new ever-changing header for the blog? Like it???

Tomorrow, hopefully, I will have the results of the MRI. Kind of curious, trying not to be concerned that anything is seriously wrong. Pretty doubtful on that.

About three years ago, I posted a short little blurb on here about a delicious buttery, crunchy topping that I love to eat on buttered noodles. I almost didn’t even post it because I thought it was the silliest, most mundane thing I could even conjure up, but it turned out to be one of my more steadfast search terms that people use to find my blog. Who would have thought that ‘Buttered Noodles’ needed to be searched?

At any rate, this yummy herbed topping is delicious and simple, and adds the perfect touch to not only buttered noodles, but mac&cheese and all other forms of pasta dishes you can come up with.

Herbed Panko Topping

2 T. butter
2 T. olive oil
1 c. Panko breadcrumbs
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. onion powder
1 t. dry basil
1/2 t. dry mustard powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter and oil in small saute pan. Add crumbs and toss to coat. Add in remaining seasonings and cook over medium-low heat, stirring continually until crumbs are browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and spread on a plate to cool. Add in parmesan/asiago type of cheese if desired. Sprinkle over drained pasta, and toss to coat.

Kate’s Notes: Once the crumbs are nicely browned, you must take them out of the pan to cool. If you leave them in the pan they will burn. Trust me. You can mix up the dried herbs you add as per your individual tastes. Use all butter too, or all oil. I like the combo of both. These keep in the fridge for about a week or so, I’m guessing anyway. They tend not to last that long around here.

embracing the inevitable

November 13th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

There’s just no point on grumbling when the first snow falls thick and hard. This is Minnesota and it’s just how life is here. I mean, look at those photos. How can you grumble about something so beautiful? Walking through the woods after a thick snowfall is to know peace and solitude and Nature at it’s finest. This is what we are. And as certain as the snow falls each year, it’s always followed by Spring. Always.

Today, as predicted, the snow is falling fast and furious. It’s heavy and wet and the roads are slick from what I’ve heard. But I have no agenda for today, no plans. There’s nothing to do but sit back, a content feline on my lap and take in the coming Winter. I love snow, as I love cross-country skiing. The more the better as far as I’m concerned. Last year we had a stellar winter in terms of snowfall. And I can only hope we get half as lucky this season.

I can’t wait to get out there.

friday fun

November 12th, 2010 | 2 Comments »

Well I did it now. I mentioned winter. And snow. And apparently tomorrow Minnesota will get it’s first significant snowfall.

But will we see something like this?

Or will it be more like this?

It sounds like it will be wet, and in our area North of the Twin Cities we might not see much at all. But for November 13, and after the most glorious Fall that I can remember, it’s all right that it’s coming. It’s time to move on.

And today I finally had my MRI to get a good look at what happened in the car accident. The vertigo, nausea and dizziness that came on seemed to magically fade as of only yesterday, which was a welcome relief. Still, the chiropractor wants to know that nothing really serious occurred.

I’ve only had one MRI before and I don’t recall much about it. This one wasn’t bad but it was really, really long. I was in that thing for like two hours. The only way to get through it, with the loud pounding noises happening right under my head was to try and think of some kind of explanation to attach to the sounds I was hearing so that I didn’t go crazy with boredom laying in that tiny tube. There was ‘Extreme Techno Pop’ sound, that made me feel like I was in a loud and throbbing dance club; there was ‘Pneumatic Construction Hammer’ sound so I imagined I was watching some construction guy with tree trunk arms busting up concrete,. There was the fun sound that seemed to be repeating ‘backpack! backpack! backpack!’ over and over. I couldn’t dream up any scenario to attach to that one though outside of a frantic kid who’d lost his backpack and was tearing around looking for it. There was ‘Super Charged Engine’ sound which made me dream of being in Mike’s Porsche on the open road, then also ‘Banging on Metal Pipes’ sound. That sort of made me want to tell someone to be quiet.  And through it all, the hum of the machine drummed through my head, often matching the rhythm of my heartbeat which was both odd and sometimes creepy. I did doze off slightly, I became wildly overheated, almost to a point of feeling feverish and I was famished by the time I was done.

So yeah. All in all it was….. uh, quite the experience and I am glad it’s over. I should know the results Monday at my next visit with the Chiropractor.

And it’s Friday. Which when you aren’t working means nothing. So I’ll leave you with a few things I am really grateful for today:

~~~The unfailing support of my spouse
~~~Services whose only goal is to help you get out from under an impossible situation.
~~~Friends. Friends. Friends. Friends. (seriously, I love you guys. All of you.)
~~~Again, my new washer and dryer *sigh* (I have mad appliance love, folks)
~~~The right perspective
~~~ Friends. Friends. Friends. Friends.


November 11th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

It’s Veteran’s Day, which is set aside as a day of remembering those who served our country. And then there’s Memorial Day, as a day to remember those who died serving our country.

But where’s the day, the national holiday that honors our loved ones and the normal folks who didn’t lay down their lives for their country? Where’s the day that we remember the mothers, fathers, siblings, aunts and uncles and grandparents that are no longer a part of our lives? The friends we’ve lost? Why is there no national holiday that honors those everyday heroes, the ones who raised children but left them too soon? The friends that no longer smile upon us and brighten our lives? The grandparents that dote on their grandchildren?

My answer to that is simple- it happens every day. Or it should happen every day.

If you’ve read this site for any amount of time you know that I no longer have my Mom and my sister Karen in my life. They died three years apart in the mid-90’s. It was a really awful time of my life as both died suddenly and tragically. But I think the worst part of losing them both is how the world simply forgets about them once they’re gone. My family certainly doesn’t forget; we can’t ignore those holes in our memories regardless of how long it’s been. And no one who has ever lost a parent forgets that influence. My Mom has been gone for 16 years and yet I still hear her laugh, and feel her guidance every day. I still bristle years later from the callous remark made to me a short time after my Mom died when someone made the offhand comment that “Jane was your Mother.”

Jane still is my mother, no less than she was when she was here and even more so because she’s gone. The influence never stops. And the fact that she gave me life doesn’t stop at her death. It’s the same way with my sister, who doesn’t cease being my sister once she leaves this Earth. Along the way of learning to navigate life without them, I began to think it was vital to do something to remember them, every day. And somehow have a means of showing others that I will never forget, and that they shouldn’t either. I didn’t know what that would look like but somehow the vision I had kept coming back to Dragonflies. And then browsing the Internet one day, I came across this from The Dragonfly project.

“In the bottom of an old pond lived some grubs who could not understand why none of their group ever came back after crawling up the lily stems to the top of the water. They promised each other that the next one who was called to make the upward climb would return and tell what had happened to him.

Soon one of them felt an urgent impulse to seek the surface; he rested himself on the top of a lily pad and went through a glorious transformation which made him a dragonfly with beautiful wings. In vain he tried to keep his promise. Flying back and forth over the pond, he peered down at his friends below. Then he realized that even if they could see him they would not recognize such a radiant creature as one of their number.

The fact that we cannot see our friends or communicate with them after the transformation which we call death is no proof that they cease to exist.”

Which then led to this permanent reminder that I carry every day on my right forearm.

Our culture doesn’t like death. We don’t honor it much and for most people, I think the thought of dying is pretty frightening. The means of one’s dying becomes a source of discomfort too, such as the case with my sister, who committed suicide. People don’t understand it and it’s better to just ignore it than talk about it, talk about why, try to make some sense of it. People turned their backs on me when my sister died because they couldn’t handle it. And when I would talk about her, I saw fear in the faces of others. We don’t honor the dead. We sweep them under the rug and act like it never happened. Or we want to, anyway.

But I don’t. And I won’t. That’s why I inked the symbolism on my arm. And I love it when people ask me what it means. To me, it means the world, my world and what I’ve lost. That’s important to me and I will never tire of telling anyone about it.

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.

supremely good hot fudge

November 8th, 2010 | 3 Comments »

From scratch. Yes. Crank up your exercise resolve if you make it.

The Teen and I were searching for some hot fudge to put into a batch of Rice Krispie Bars, and…..

What? Of course, you heard me right!! Silly- I wouldn’t fib about this. Most people just go ahead and use Cocoa Krispies to make a rich chocolate-y version of Rice Krispie Bars, but that’s just SO not me. I go all out people. In the race to decadence, I am the one at the end stretching herself out to knock everyone else out of the running.

But yeah, back to that Hot Fudge. All we found in the store were jars with high fructose corn syrup. I relented and got one that had less of the evil ingredients over the others; still, it wasn’t my first choice. Because you see, I’d forgotten that I had this recipe.

And with thousands of recipes under my belt, do you blame me?

Decadent Hot Fudge Sauce
(from The Silver Palate Cookbook, with adaptations)

4  1-oz squares unsweetened Bakers Chocolate
3 T. unsalted butter (NO substitutions- be WILD people!)
2/3 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. light corn syrup
Pinch sea salt
1 T. pure vanilla extract (or get even more crazy and add real rum, cognac, amaretto……you get the idea)

In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together. Do not stir, but occasionally agitate the pan to distribute the heat. Alternately, you can use a double boiler. In another small pan, bring the water to a boil.

When the chocolate is fully melted, pour the boiling water into it, then stir in the sugar and corn syrup. Stir to combine and bring back to a boil. Reduce the heat so that it simmers gently, but not violently, and allow to boil for about 10 minutes. You can stir it occasionally, but it’s really not necessary. After 10 minutes, remove it from the heat and stir in the flavoring. Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so, then spoon it over ice cream.

This can be chilled too, and reheated in the microwave. Stir to combine before serving. Enjoy it immensely.

A Note From Kate: I do realize this has corn syrup in it. BUT…. it also has ZERO unpronounceable ingredients. I’ll take that over a jar any day.

winter fruit compote

November 7th, 2010 | 9 Comments »

My apologies for starting this post out using the word ‘Winter’ in the title. Those of us in the northern climes are still experiencing a gorgeous Fall- and the sunshine that we’ve had through the early part of November is dazzling. And so unexpected. November around here is equated with a dense gray expanse of sky that rarely seems to break. It’s a gloomy month, usually, and for the sun and blue sky to be greeting us each morning is a gift. A true weather gift. One that I am savoring with all my might.

But then I go and say ‘Winter’.

But bear with me friends, as you know I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Even with the still mild days of November to wrap around us, my mind is gearing up for cold. It’s inevitable, and I think people are taking bets around here on when the first real snowfall will drop from that leaden sky that we know so well. The first snow that sticks, snarls traffic, makes people grumble inside…. we know how it is around here. We may have resided here all our lives but there comes that first coating of white and it’s like folks have wiped any memory of it clear from their heads.

Like who could forget something like this?

Sorry, there I went and did it again.

But the thing is, it’s coming and when it does, and we wake on those chilly Winter mornings craving all forms of comfort food to fill our Minnesota bellies with warmth, what you should be making is this simple and delicious compote. It tops so many winter breakfast foods like it was meant to be, like the way Winter will eventually lead us to Spring. A spoonful in your Oatmeal is heavenly; a spread across your pancakes, waffles or french toast is worthy of your best food-lovin’ eye roll and exclamations of ‘Oh dear! This is good!’. It’s endlessly versatile and needs no special ingredients. And if you make it in your flannel jammies, with thick slippers on your feet while the furnace hums it’s way to warming your home, it might just make those Winter mornings a bit more pleasant.

And as Minnesota goes, in the wintertime, we need as much of that as we can get.

Winter Fruit Compote
by Kate

1 medium tart apple, washed, cored and diced fine
1 c. chopped pecans
1/3 c. currants
1 T. butter
1/2 c. pure maple syrup

In a skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the apple. Saute for a few minutes until the apple is soft, then stir in the pecans and cook, stirring regularly, until the nuts are slightly toasted and fragrant. Pour in the maple syrup and reduce the heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally until the maple syrup has been absorbed. Stir in the currants and heat through. Serve warm over pancakes or waffles. Will keep refrigerated for several days. If you can resist. Reheat in the microwave if desired. This tastes amazing if sprinkled with a light dusting of sea salt prior to serving. Something about that salty sweet crunch…..

Winter pears, like Anjou or Red or even the Bosc would make a good substitute for the apple in this. Change up the nuts, use raisins instead of currants, or add other dried fruit. Toss in some shredded coconut if it’s your thing. Or even chop up an orange, mix it with dried cranberries and chopped pistachios and a dash of cardamom for an exotic option. The possibilities are endless, people. Endless.