Thursday, December 30, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

You did know that it’s still Christmas right? That whole 12 days of Christmas thing just starts on December 25th and goes until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. Since I figured it was my last non-working Christmas, Joe and I convinced my parents to go to Colorado, which wasn’t hard to do because a) they love Colorado and b) my brother took a job in Denver in August. Joe’s sister also lives in the mountains, and we have other family there too. So we celebrated Christmas in Nashville a little early.


Vanderbilt gives the faculty and staff a turkey, so I roasted it according to this method, which has always turned out perfectly. We also had my mom’s cranberries (lower right corner), roasted brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds, and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. For dessert, I served the cranberry swirl cheesecake.

Then we opened presents! This year’s theme was owls and running. I got some nice running gear for the cold weather, and Joe got me this beautiful owl sculpture I had been eyeing at a store in Franklin. Owls are kind of my thing since my college mascot was an owl, and I love that they stand for wisdom. I know they’re becoming kind of trendy right now, but I also have a collection of owl pins that were my grandmother’s so I think they’re very classic.


We spent the actual Christmas Day skiing at Copper Mountain, but we kept Joe’s family’s tradition of Chinese food on Christmas Eve and attended Christmas Eve service at the beautiful Episcopal church in Breckenridge. I hadn’t skied in probably ten years, so it took a few runs to get back into the groove. Once I reminded myself how to do it, I picked up right where I left off. Isn’t muscle memory amazing?

Now, as we look to 2011, it’s traditionally a time to make resolutions or goals for the upcoming year. 2011 is going to be a big year for me. I will graduate with my MDiv degree, likely be ordained to the diaconate, and hopefully find a place to do ministry. I’m wary of making goals for the year that are relevant to my life as a student right now but might not be sustainable once I’m working (hopefully) full-time. Here are a few that I want to accomplish:

  • Keep running consistently and get back into strength-training. I’ve signed up for a half marathon in April, and this one I’m actually going to train for, so ideally it will be a little faster than the one I accidentally ran in September. I fell off the lifting wagon when I started running regularly and then when I hurt my ribs. I feel and look better when I lift regularly, so I’d like to aim for twice a week.
  • Stop eating chickens, turkeys, cows, lambs, pigs, and anything else with legs. I’ve been phasing meat out of my diet for the past few months, and I managed to make this past trip while eating minimal meat, so January 1st is going to be the line in the sand for me.
  • Blog more regularly, which will necessitate cooking at home more consistently. This past semester was hard because I was at work or class frequently until 7 pm. It was too easy to pick up something or throw together an un-blog-worthy meal. I’d like to aim for an average of 3x a week.

What are your goals or resolutions for the new year? Do you make resolutions?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

The day after I turned in my final papers, I jetted off to Philadelphia with my parents for my uncle’s memorial service. Coincidentally, Vivek, another Nashville food blogger, also happened to be on the same flight. The security line at the Nashville airport was so long that he almost missed the plane, and we barely had enough time to grab the necessary Starbucks before bundling into our seats.

The next day was the memorial service, and I had agreed to sing. Yet again, it’s a small world I live in, and the priest at my aunt’s church, where the service was held, is the mother-in-law of the son of the priest I have been working with at the Cathedral. The church was beautiful, and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also a bit difficult to get to. When they chose the location in the 18th century, they probably weren’t considering where future highways and major thoroughfares might be. The service was very nice. I know I’m a little biased, but I think the Episcopal burial service is just stunning. Here’s my grandmother and me:


After the service, my parents and I went for a run on the trail near my aunt’s house. Never could I have imagined the day when I would go for a run with my parents and be the fastest one, but my mom is injured and doing low heart rate training and my dad is just getting back on the running wagon after his cycling season. I ran 6 miles in 59:30, which was definitely pushing it. Then we stopped by Wawa and on to Wegman’s, where my dad and I found these:


Giant bottles of Belgian beer! Too bad we couldn’t take them home. Joe would’ve loved a giant bottle of Chimay blue for Christmas. On our way back to Nashville, we saw Santa in the Southwest terminal and decided that it wouldn’t hurt to ask Santa for a few more presents. I also learned some fun photo tricks on Windows Live Photo Gallery.


I agreed to host Christmas dinner on Sunday night since we’ll be in Colorado on the 25th and because Joe gets a turkey from work every year. This is the first year we actually made the turkey for Christmas rather than waiting until Easter. So Saturday night, while Joe was on-call, I got to work making this Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake that was on the front of Cooking Light. I love the red and white combination because it’s so festive, but I’m not a big fan of peppermint or candy canes. And normally I would poo-poo a “light” cheesecake, but this one was delicious. It had a wonderfully light texture but was still creamy and rich. The cranberry swirl and the chocolate crust combination took it from plain to something special and was the perfect treat to dig into after we had finished opening all of our gifts. I found there was a little too much cranberry sauce to make the prettiest swirl, so don’t feel bad if you don’t use all of the topping.


Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake
source: Cooking Light December 2010


  • 4  ounces  chocolate graham crackers
  • 3  tablespoons  canola oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2  cups  fresh cranberries
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/4  cup  Chambord (raspberry liqueur) (I subbed pomegranate liqueur that I had on hand)
  • 3  tablespoons  water
  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 2  (8-ounce) packages block-style 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2  cup  (4 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1  cup  plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 3  large eggs
  • 2  large egg whites


Preheat oven to 375° and wrap outside and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with a double layer of heavy-duty foil.

Place graham crackers in a food processor, and process until finely ground. Drizzle with oil; pulse until combined. Press mixture into bottom and 1/2 inch up sides of prepared pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 8 minutes; cool on a rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Place cranberries, sugar, liqueur, and water in a saucepan; boil. Cook 8 minutes or until cranberries pop and mixture is syrupy. Set aside until cool. Place mixture in a food processor; process 1 minute or until smooth.

Combine 1 cup sugar and cheeses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in yogurt, vanilla, and salt. Add whole eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Place egg whites in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form using clean, dry beaters. Fold beaten egg whites into cream cheese mixture. Pour filling over crust. Spoon cranberry mixture over filling; swirl together using the tip of a knife. Place springform pan in a roasting pan, and add hot water to pan to a depth of 2 inches. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until center of cheesecake barely moves when pan is touched.

Turn oven off. Cool cheesecake in closed oven 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven. Run a knife around outside edge. Cool on a wire rack. Cover and chill 8 hours.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies

Here is how a typical fall semester ends at the Divinity School: We have our last day of classes in early December, which is the last time that we’re guaranteed of having face time with one another. Then we immediately fall into a panic, writing final papers and studying for exams. We might see our friends in the library and nod hello, but there’s no time to stop and chat. We trade updates on our papers and stress-induced panic on Facebook and Twitter until said papers are due. Then, most people immediately leave town to go home where, inevitably, they collapse on their parents’ couch and watch bad television until sufficiently recuperated.

The problem with this is that there’s no time for decompression, no time to celebrate either the end of the semester or the birth of Christ. So I invited a few girlfriends over when most of us were finished with our semester for a small dinner and cookie exchange for this exact reason. I put on Christmas music, and my friends came over with sweets to munch on and wine to drink. It’s safe to say that we all needed that time to vent, whine, and moan and then to laugh and celebrate the completion of another semester of graduate school.

I made these cookies for our little get-together as well as for a Secret Santa gift. They’re the recipe that Cindy McCain submitted for the First Lady cookie recipe contest that didn’t end up being her recipe (Cookie-Gate!). They’re a touch crispy for my taste, since I like chewier cookies, but they have that great caramel and butterscotch thing going for them. As an addition to a cookie platter, they would be good for people who aren’t that into chocolate, and such people do exist, but otherwise they’re a little meh for my taste.


Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies
As seen on Erin’s Food Files
Yields 3-4 dozen cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Blend in eggs and vanilla until mixture is smooth.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir into butter mixture, then mix in the oats and butterscotch chips.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls (large balls) of cookie down onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie to allow for spread.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peanut Butter Fudge

I have a mental list of dishes that I want to try to make, though I really should write some of these down one of these days. Mostly the list consists of foods that are carbo-licious or a caloric splurge: biscuits and gravy, biscotti, bagels. Apparently, on this list, everything also starts with ‘B’. And then there is candy, like fudge, which I always assumed required a candy thermometer and knowing what the “soft-ball stage” looked like.

This fudge required no such thing. Four ingredients, a microwave, a refrigerator, and it was done. I wish I didn’t know how easy this was. I quickly packaged up the majority of it for gift-giving, but I also snuck a few pieces that happened to crack (or something) while I was cutting them. You will love this. Your friends will love this. How could anything that contains peanut butter, sugar, and butter be wrong?


Peanut Butter Fudge
source: Alton Brown via Erin’s Food Files


1 cup butter, plus more for greasing pan
1 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 pound powdered sugar


Microwave butter and peanut butter for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Add vanilla and powdered sugar to peanut butter mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon. Pour into a buttered 8 by 8-inch pan lined with waxed paper. Place a second piece of waxed paper on the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool. Cut into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tamale Pie with Pumpkin Cornbread

On Monday, I turned in my baby – my senior seminar project that I’ve been working on all semester. Sunday, it snowed. And Monday, I braved the icy roads to print out two copies of that project and hand it in. Not coincidentally, Monday was also the first night I made dinner in quite some time. This had been on the menu for a couple of days but kept getting pushed back in favor of something easier, like Chinese take-out. Or bourbon. Just kidding about the bourbon.

But this dinner was worth waiting for. Once I started chopping onions and bell peppers, I got in the cooking zone. Even Joe remarked how good it was, and it’s been a while since he’s complimented me on a vegetarian meal. The filling is well-seasoned and hearty, and the cornbread is tender and moist. The cinnamon particularly makes for a fragrant and unexpected addition.


Tamale Pie with Pumpkin Cornbread
source: Veggie by Season


1 package Jiffy cornbread mix
1 egg, beaten
1/3 c. skim milk
1/2 c. solid pack pumpkin
1 tbsp. honey or maple syrup
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 ears of corn kernels or 1 c. frozen corn kernels
1 yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with jalapeños
2 c. cooked pinto beans
1 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt and pepper

Chopped cilantro
Grated Cheddar
Sour Cream/Greek yogurt


Preheat oven to 350*
Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. EVOO, peppers, onion and garlic.
Season with salt and pepper, saute' for 10 minutes, until vegetables have softened. While veggies cook, in a mixing bowl whisk together egg, milk, pumpkin and honey.
Add cornbread mix, sprinkle of cayenne, and stir until mixture just comes together.
Drain tomatoes and add to vegetables along with the corn.
Add beans and spices to vegetables, stir well and taste, adjust seasonings.
Pour the cornbread topping over the vegetable mixture and spread to the edges of the skillet. Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, until cornbread is golden brown and set.
Spoon into a dish and serve with garnishes.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Chewy

The theme of this month has been cookies and singing. This semester I’ve had a few seminar classes with really great people, so what better way to show my appreciation than to bake them cookies? Pumpkin Oatmeal cookies for the worship committee and various people in Bible and Sermon, and chocolate chip cookies go to my fellow Episcopalians in Readings in Anglican Liturgics. Besides, baking is a far more enjoyable way to spend a cold winter afternoon than huddling with a stack of books in a library carrel.

And the singing? Well, any musician knows that this time of year is stellar for cash flow. Between Lessons & Carols and performances of Handel’s Messiah, December is a great month for music. Between First Friday at the Cathedral, community worship at school, and Advent Lessons & Carols, I’ve been asked to sing quite a bit. It’s also a way of letting myself rest and tapping into the more creative side of my brain.

A couple years ago, a variety of recipes for chocolate chip cookies made their way through the blogosphere, and for my Anglican Liturgics friends, I wanted only the best cookie recipe, so I turned to Bridget, who in her delightfully scientific way had done a cookie comparison of all of the different recipes. Though each recipe had its pros and cons, she ultimately recommended Alton Brown’s The Chewy.

I can certainly see why. It’s my ideal chocolate chip cookie with crisp edges and a soft interior. They were particularly addictive fresh out of the oven, and Joe and I may have made some ice cream sandwiches with these cookies. Who are you accusing of stress eating? Joe said that these were the best cookies I’ve ever made. They didn’t seem to be quite as good the next day, but fresh out of the oven, these were nothing short of transcendent.


The Chewy
source: Food Network


  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.

Pour the melted butter in the mixer's work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

On Saturday, we finally got our tree up and decorated. Weekends in December are a bit hectic. In addition to all of the fun holiday things, I’m also facing school deadlines. Because I’m going to be traveling quite a bit in the latter half of the month, we decided this year to do a fake tree. My parents always get a real tree, but I just wouldn’t be home enough to outweigh the frustrations and mess of a real tree. We won’t discuss how I spent a good portion of last January picking up tree needles by hand. Before we got dressed up for Joe’s department holiday party, we got a quick picture of the family in front of this year’s tree (LED lights!). Let it be noted that I will post unflattering pictures of myself on my blog.


Sunday morning, I woke up to make these cookies. These are the perfect fall-winter bridge cookie. They’re also freaking delicious. Chewy but soft and flavorful, with just the right amount of mix-ins. I love the wintery combination of dried cranberries and white chocolate chips but with the fall spices. It’s everything you could ever want in a cookie.

Seriously, until I made these, my favorite cookies are white chocolate macadamia nut and oatmeal raisin. I love the creaminess of the white chocolate chips and the chewy spiciness of oatmeal raisin cookies. These combine all of that, plus pumpkin. And who doesn’t love pumpkin?

Real or fake tree this year? Or what’s your favorite cookie?


Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies
source: Annie’s Eats
Yield 2 1/2-3 dozen


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
¾ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground cloves
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
Dash of allspice
½ tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1½ cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, spices and salt.  Whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the pumpkin puree until well incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Beat in the oats until combined.  With a rubber spatula, fold in the white chocolate chips and dried cranberries until evenly mixed.

Drop in small scoops (about 1½-2 tablespoons) onto prepared baking sheets, spaced 2-3 inches apart.  Bake 12-14 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly browned, rotating the sheets halfway through baking.  Allow to cool on the sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pumpkin-White Bean Shepherd’s Pie

I seem to be about a season behind in the kitchen. Somehow, I made it through a relatively warm fall with a stash of pumpkin with which I kept meaning to bake and cook. Now that winter has reared its freezing cold head, I’m finally digging into it, particularly since quite a few of the recipes I had bookmarked call for pumpkin. All of this to explain why I’m using pumpkin in December.

After completely OD’ing on meat on vacation, I’m rediscovering my desire to take very seriously my move to pescetarianism. Though this recipe originally called for ground turkey, I subbed Morningstar Crumbles. With everything else in there, you hardly notice them anyway. Of course, when Joe asked me what I had added, and I responded, “Textured vegetable protein!”, he didn’t seem quite as excited. If you avoid fake meats, eggplant or additional mushrooms would be a good substitution.

As you might remember, I am a big fan of comforting winter meals that aren’t crazy heavy and loaded with starch and butter. Using the pumpkin-white bean puree really lightens up the typical mashed potato topping of Shepherd’s Pie. For a seemingly heavy meal, this was surprisingly light, while still being creamy and delicious.


Pumpkin-White Bean Shepherd’s Pie
source: Cara’s Cravings 
Yields 4 servings


2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 10 oz package baby portobello mushrooms, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 package Morningstar Crumbles or 1 lb ground turkey
freshly ground salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
14 oz can diced tomatoes
10 oz baby spinach
1 15oz can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup cooked cannellini beans
1 oz grated pecorino romano cheese


Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Heat a olive oil in a 9-10" cast iron or other oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for two minutes, until starting to soften. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-5 minutes more, until they have released their moisture. Add the minced garlic and veggie crumbles. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Cook for several minutes, until crumbles are no longer frozen. Mix in the Herbs de Provence, tomato and paste, and flour; mix to coat well. Raise the heat to high, and add the diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Add the spinach, a few handfuls at a time, letting it wilt down.Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Meanwhile, puree the pumpkin or squash together with the white beans. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture over the filling in the skillet. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes, until hot and bubbling around the edges. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake for 5-10 minutes more, until lightly browned.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Wish List

Happy New Year! I know you think that I'm a month early, but I actually mean happy new liturgical year. This past Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, which kicks off another cycle of the liturgical year. In my denomination, we really try to hold back on Christmas. Advent is a time of anticipation, both of Christ's birth and of the second coming. We don't sing Christmas carols until Christmas Eve, and the greenery doesn't go up in the church until the week before.

However, I don't have that kind of discipline in my own home. Yes, I have an Advent calendar, but it's right next to the poinsettia. The Christmas tree (fake this year, BOO!) is up, and I'll start wrapping a few presents soon. As much as I try not to buy into the consumerist aspect of the holiday season, it is fun to dream of what Santa might bring, and I enjoy picking out and buying gifts for other people. As long as it doesn't get too out of control, giving gifts is certainly a way of showing you care about someone.

Here are a few things that are on my wish list this year:

An electronic kitchen scale is a necessity for accurately weighing flour and other ingredients for baked goods. Volume measurements can add flour leading to dense breads and cookies. Using weight measurements is an easy way to determine accuracy, and with the use of ratios, you can even free yourself from the confines of recipes.


When we were in Sonoma (blog posts to come!), we visited Kendall-Jackson, where the guy working the tasting room had us try a wine out of the bottle and the same wine poured through the Vinturi wine aerator. In a simple step, the aerator developed the bouquet and flavors of the wine. The same guy said that when he goes to a restaurant with a bottle of wine, he always takes his Vinturi and his own glassware!


Speaking of glassware, when we registered for wine glasses when we got married, we only got one kind. No different glasses for red and white wines for us. But then, when we were in Sonoma, we had a lovely pinot noir in a pristine Riedel pinot noir glass, and there really was a difference! Since we purchased some very nice wines in California, including a few we are going to try to cellar, the glassware to enjoy them to their fullest would be a welcome gift.


I don't want to cook all the time, and one of Joe's and my favorite ways of relaxing is to head out on the town to explore new restaurants and hangouts. We like it even more if we don't have to pay full price! And if you read this before Thursday evening, you can head over to Eat.Drink.Smile to win one. Go ahead and enter, even if you're not from Nashville because then you can give it to me!


We're well into the realm of fantasy on this one, but a girl can dream. I think that this is a basic enough DSLR that I could actually figure out how to use it, and my point-and-shoot is getting a little beaten up. I do love the portability of my point-and-shoot, but I crave the pictures that people with DSLRs take.


In lieu of the fancy camera, a portable lighting kit like this one would be really helpful for getting decent pictures on dark winter nights. And it's only about $450 cheaper.

There you have it, my dream/wish/gift list for the holiday season for a cook, blogger, and Nashville foodie.

What's on your holiday wish list this year?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Vegetarian Bean Chili

Imagine a completely hypothetical situation in which you were on vacation in Sonoma for a week, eating lots of food that you don’t normally eat (like chorizo and turkey) and drinking wine all day. Before that vacation, you were so exhausted and burnt out that dinner was mostly spaghetti or black bean burgers or take-out. And then along came Thanksgiving. When you got home, your pants were quite a bit tighter, but you still ate your way through a three-course resident interview dinner complete with a toffee bit-topped flourless chocolate torte. It might be time to get back into a routine of cooking lighter meals.

BUT! There are only two weeks of classes left, 8 zillion pages to write before than, and it’s a gross, cold, rainy night. This chili would come in handy.

So maybe that situation isn’t completely hypothetical, though this time of the year, you can fill in your own blanks about what has kept you out of the kitchen. Either way, this chili will only take you thirty minutes and leave you with leftovers!

Thirty minutes is the perfect amount of time for a healthful, warm, nutritious meal. With the short daylight hours and the holiday madness and all of the other cooking and baking going on in your kitchen, you don’t need a long time to prepare something satisfying and nutritious.


Vegetarian Bean Chili
source: Everyday Food, October 2007
Yields 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 zucchini (about 1 pound total), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 can (15 oounces) black beans
  • 1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans
  • 1 can (28 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • Preparation

    1. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes.
    2. Add zucchini, carrots, chili powder, and cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until carrots are crisp-tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, corn, and 1 cup water. Simmer until slightly thickened and carrots are soft, 8 to 10 minutes more.

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake

    *tap* *tap* *tap* Hello? Is this thing on? Let’s talk about what’s been going on in my kitchen lately… *crickets chirping*

    Yep, that’s a whole lot of nothing. What has been going on are papers and sermons and meetings and running and work and social events and a horrible cold and expiring Groupons that have kept me from anything exciting in my kitchen.

    And to make matters worse, I’m skipping out on Thanksgiving. The biggest food holiday of the year, and I’m going MIA. I have a week off from classes and work, and Joe has one of his weeks of vacation, so we’re going here:


    Sonoma County. Six nights. Wineries. Hiking. Local food. A little cabin on a vineyard in Healdsburg. Pretending my senior project doesn’t exist. Absolute heaven.

    And not cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So I made this cake instead. It has chocolate, butter, sugar, and bourbon. I baked it while listening to the Swingin’ Christmas station on Pandora. That is all that you need to know. Oh, it is also very boozy, so keep it away from the kiddos.

    After having a great buttermilk ice cream with a rich chocolate cobbler at Capitol Grille last week, I attempted to make buttermilk ice cream to go along with this, but it didn’t work out as planned. But ice cream is a nice complement to the richness of this cake. And if you aren’t a fan of bourbon? Well then that’s more for me to eat.


    Chocolate Bourbon Bundt Cake
    source: Erin’s Food Files

    2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
    2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
    5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
    ¼ cup instant espresso powder
    2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
    1 cup bourbon, rye, or other whiskey
    ½ tsp. kosher salt
    2 cups granulated sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
    1 tsp. baking soda
    Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish (optional)


    Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 10-cup-capacity Bundt pan (or two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans).

    In a heatproof bowl set over – but not touching – a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate until just smooth, stirring occasionally. Let cool.

    Put espresso and cocoa powders in a 2-cup (or larger) glass measuring cup. Add enough boiling water to come up to the 1 cup measuring line. Stir until the powders dissolve. Add the bourbon and salt. Let cool.

    Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar, and beat until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla extract, baking soda and melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

    With the mixer on low speed, beat in a third of the whiskey mixture. When liquid is absorbed, beat in 1 cup flour. Repeat additions, ending with the bourbon mixture. It may seem like there is too much liquid, but don’t worry; it’s okay. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour and 10 minutes for a Bundt pan. (Loaf pans will take less time; start checking them after 55 minutes.)

    Transfer the cake, still in its pan, to a rack. Unmold after 15 minutes. Cool completely before serving, garnished with confectioners’ sugar, if you like.

    Note: This cake tastes even better on the second day, when the intensity of the alcohol mellows a little bit.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010

    Stocking the Kitchen

    A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my friend E noting that I had made several remarks about how much easier it was to create home-cooked, seasonal meals with a well-stocked pantry, and she wondered what a well-stocked pantry might consist of. As a fellow future ordained minister and current student and wife, E and I both try to live balanced and healthy lives, knowing full well that if we don’t take good care of ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually, then we can’t take very good care of others.

    While other websites and blogs have tackled this genre of post with great aplomb (see Cheap Healthy Good’s post on Pantry of the Gods), I thought I would post about what works for me and allows me to cook and bake the kinds of foods that work for a busy, semi-meatless couple on a budget. In some ways, this is an ideal list based on a good day. It’s also incomplete, based on my must-haves rather than on absolutely everything that’s in my pantry. You can adapt it to your own personal preferences based on whether you can’t stand spicy food or never want to make Asian cuisine. It’s simply what works for me!



    • Canned Goods - tomatoes (whole, diced, crushed), coconut milk, broth or Better Than Bullion, pumpkin
    • Legumes – canned or dried beans (kidney, black, white), lentils
    • Grains – brown rice, barley, oats, whole wheat couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta (short & long shapes), risotto, grits, cornmeal, flour (all-purpose, bread, whole wheat)
    • Baking – baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, brown sugar, chocolate (chips, unsweetened, bittersweet), coconut flakes, vanilla extract
    • Spices – cumin, chili, curry, garam masala, cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, paprika, crushed red pepper, oregano, blends (Cajun, pizza, Mexican, Trader Joe’s everyday seasoning), garlic
    • Nuts and Seeds – almonds, pecans, peanuts, pistachios, peanut butter, ground flax
    • Oils – olive oil, canola
    • Vinegars – white, apple cider, red wine, rice wine
    • Sauces – fish sauce, soy, hoisin, hot sauce (Buffalo, Tabasco, Sriracha), salsa, tomato, Worcestershire
    • Crackers, tortilla chips
    • Fruits and Vegetables (seasonally dependent) – bananas, apples, sweet potatoes, winter squash, clementines, lemons, limes
    • Tea and coffee


    • Vegetables – onion, carrots, celery, something green & leafy (spinach or romaine)
    • Staples – eggs, soy milk, butter, Greek yogurt
    • Condiments – jam/jelly, mayonnaise, mustard (brown and Dijon)
    • Bread – tortillas, Sandwich Thins
    • Cheese – cheddar, feta
    • Tofu


    • Vegetables – peas, corn, edamame
    • Frozen fruit – cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, mixed berry, overripe bananas
    • Yeast
    • Proteins – seafood (mahi mahi, tilapia, tuna, shrimp)
    • Planning ahead – homemade stock, homemade dough (pizza, pita bread)

    Confession: For most of my every day cooking, I use refrigerated minced garlic. I know it doesn’t taste the same, but I loathe peeling those thin, papery skins off of oddly-sized garlic cloves and having my hands smell like garlic all day.

    Also, since our discovery of decent boxed wine, we keep a box of white in the fridge and a box of red on our liquor cart (that’s a whole other post). It keeps forever and serves as a great table wine and makes it easy to cook with, plus it’s more environmentally friendly than glass bottles. Try the Bota Box Pinot Grigio or the J.P. Chenet Cabernet-Syrah for brands we like.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

    Over the years, we’ve developed a tradition when my mother-in-law comes to visit from Wisconsin bearing brats and cheese. It started out with just us and my parents and has grown into a full Bratfest. Since she came to visit this weekend, we prepped the house, invited some friends over, and stocked the fridge with beer for a full-blown party. Our cat loves when people come to visit him, so he was waiting patiently for everyone to show up.


    Usually we ask people to bring sides and dessert, but I spotted a chance to break in my brand-new stand mixer. After browsing through recipes for layer cakes and perusing baking blogs, it hit me. A pumpkin cheesecake would be the perfect addition to our Bratfest. The only problem is that I had never made a cheesecake before, a minor detail in my mind.

    Thursday night, I tackled the cheesecake, carefully pressing the graham cracker crust into place in my virgin 9” springform pan, pressing the water out of canned pumpkin, and letting that stand mixer go to town on the cream cheese. At the same time, I had Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup in the slow-cooker and was whipping up some beer bread. This, unfortunately, made things a little complicated. When it rose, the beer bread was caught on the broiler, and I kept having to open the oven while the cheesecake was in there to deal with the beer bread. After the cheesecake was finished, there was the beginning of a crack that started to spread across the top. Fortunately, I had whipped cream leftover, and, never one to let a chance to use that beautiful stand mixer go to waste, I whipped it right up and spread it over the top.

    The cheesecake itself was delicious, like pumpkin pie in cheesecake form. Everyone at Bratfest enjoyed it, and even though it was rich, it tasted light and creamy on the tongue. I foresee more cheesecakes in my future, as long as I have friends to help me eat them!


    Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake
    source: Annie’s Eats

    For the crust:
    5 oz. graham crackers, broken into large pieces
    3 tbsp. sugar
    ½ tsp. ground ginger
    ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted

    For the filling:
    1 1/3 cups (10 1/3 oz.) sugar
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp. ground ginger
    ¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
    ¼ tsp. ground cloves
    ¼ tsp. ground allspice
    ½ tsp. salt
    1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
    3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 tbsp. vanilla extract
    1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
    5 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 cup heavy cream

    Preheat the oven to 325˚ F and place an oven rack in the lower-middle position.  Wrap the outside of a 9-inch springform pan tightly with two pieces of foil.  Spray the inside of the pan lightly with cooking spray.  To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and spices in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to process until evenly and finely ground.  Add the melted butter to the bowl and pulse again until the crumbs are evenly moistened.  Transfer the crumbs to the prepared springform pan and press firmly into an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Bake until fragrant and browned at the edges, about 15 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 30 minutes.  Set the pan inside a larger roasting pan.

    Bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil; maintain at a simmer.  To make the filling, combine the sugar, spices and salt in a small bowl; whisk to blend and set aside.  Line a work surface with a triple layer of towels.  Spread the pumpkin on the towels and cover with a second triple layer of towels.  Press firmly until the towels are saturated with excess liquid.

    In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth and softened, about 1 minute.  Add about a third of the sugar-spice mixture to the bowl and beat at medium-low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.  Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed and repeat, adding the remaining sugar mixture in two additions.  Add the pumpkin puree, vanilla and lemon juice; beat at medium speed until blended, about 45 seconds.  Add 3 of the eggs and mix on medium-low until incorporated; repeat with the remaining two eggs.  Add the heavy cream and beat at low speed until combined, about 45 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to give the mixture a final stir by hand.

    Pour the filling into the springform pan, over the crust.  Smooth the top.  Pour enough simmering water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.  Bake until the cake is slightly wobbly when the pan is shaken and the center reads 150˚ F on an instant-read thermometer, about 90 minutes.  Transfer the roasting pan to a wire rack and cool until the water is just warm, about 45 minutes.  Remove the springform pan from the water bath, discard the foil, and run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake.  Cool until barely warm, about 3 hours.  Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours and up to 3 days.

    To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan.  Slide a thin metal spatula between the crust and the bottom of the pan to loosen.  Transfer to a serving platter.  Garnish with candied pecans and whipped cream as desired.  Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Brie, Apple, and Arugula Quesadillas

    One advantage of having a CSA share is that I definitely get my greens. When I picked up my last share of the season on Saturday, there were three big leafy bundles of greens: arugula, tatsoi (an Asian spinach), and turnip greens. The turnip greens were so beautiful that I swore they could’ve been someone’s bridal bouquet.

    Because of this, I’ve started making myself Green Monster smoothies for breakfast with a couple cups of greens, 1 cup of soy milk, a 1/2 scoop of protein powder, 2 tbsp ground flax, and a banana. Sometimes I’ll add some pumpkin and cinnamon. It doesn’t taste as weird as you might think, but the color is pretty vibrant. The first time I made one, I left the blender out, and Joe’s first question was, “What in the world did you make in the blender that was so green?”

    And this is how I know that I’ve become my parents. They have always been athletes, and I remember making fun of my mom for eating a combination of yogurt, peanut butter, and Grape-Nuts cereal because it looked like dog food. Well, now I’m drinking green smoothies for breakfast.

    These quesadillas are a more mainstream way to get your greens in. With crisp apples and smooth melted Brie, the peppery arugula stands out. It would be a great appetizer for a fall get-together or simply increase the portion size and eat it for dinner with some more greens in the form of a salad. The mustard ties it all together, so don’t forget it!


    Brie, Apple, and Arugula Quesadillas
    source: Cooking Light October 2010
    Yields 6 servings (2 wedges each)


    • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • 2 teaspoons apple cider
    • 3 (10-inch) whole wheat flour tortillas
    • 6 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, divided
    • 1 Fuji apple, cored and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 1/2 pound), divided
    • 3 cups arugula, divided
    • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided


    1. Combine mustard and cider in a small bowl; stir well.

    2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spread each tortilla with equal amounts of the mustard mixture. Place 1 tortilla, mustard side up, in pan. Arrange one-third of cheese slices over half of tortilla; cook 1 minute or until cheese begins to melt. Arrange one-third of apple slices over cheese; top with 1 cup arugula. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

    3. Fold tortilla in half; press gently with a spatula. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from pan. Repeat procedure twice with remaining 2 tortillas, cheese, apple slices, 2 cups arugula, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Buffalo Chicken Casserole

    Sunday evening, Beth of Eat.Drink.Smile rounded up a bunch of Nashville food bloggers and put together a get-together at the newly-opened Olivia Olive Oil boutique. I didn’t take any pictures because I was busy running my mouth (why yes, I am an extrovert), but it’s a lovely shop and they were fabulous hosts for us. They had all different kinds of olive oils that we tried, as well as gourmet jams, chutneys, and other fun food stuffs. If you’re looking for a great hostess gift for the upcoming holiday party season, I would highly recommend that you check out Olivia Olive Oil. It was also great to meet a bunch of other food bloggers who, if they haven’t already, will soon be added to the little tab up top that says “Blogs I Love”.

    With a big thunderstorm coming that night, we quickly dispersed to our respective homes, but I was energized and inspired by the company and decided to whip up this casserole for the week ahead. I had earmarked this recipe with plans to use the very last package of chicken remaining in the freezer. I knew Joe would love it because it has all of the delicious buffalo chicken flavors but without the mess of wings. And casseroles are so delightfully comforting, and they remind me of lots of wonderful church potlucks.

    Fortunately, this one doesn’t contain any weird cream of [blank] soup to use as a thickener – just milk and cornstarch. I even substituted soy milk without any problems or taste issues. However, there was a little too much pasta, and I increased the amount of hot sauce. Changes are reflected below. So take this to a church or neighborhood potluck and watch everyone go crazy or serve it at your next football-watching party with a big green salad. Nobody will even know that it’s a healthy recipe!


    Buffalo Chicken Casserole
    source: Eating Well September/October 2010
    Yields 8 servings


    • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 3 medium carrots, sliced
    • 3 medium stalks celery, sliced
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
    • 1/3 cup cornstarch
    • 4 cups low-fat milk
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1/3 cup hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot
    • 3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (about 4 ounces)


    1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
    2. Bring a Dutch oven of water to a boil. Cook noodles until barely tender, about 2 minutes less than package directions. Drain, rinse and set aside.
    3. Heat oil in the pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and garlic and cook until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink on the outside, 5 to 7 minutes. Whisk cornstarch and milk in a medium bowl; add to the pot along with salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often, until bubbling and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in hot sauce.
    4. Spread the noodles in a 9-by-13-inch (or similar 3-quart) baking dish. Top with the chicken mixture; sprinkle with blue cheese.
    5. Bake the casserole until it is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

    Nutritional Information
    Per serving: 441 calories; 12 g fat (5 g sat, 5 g mono); 79 mg cholesterol; 47 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 37 g protein; 5 g fiber; 671 mg sodium; 619 mg potassium.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    San Diego and Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash

    Last weekend was my Fall Break, which also happened to coincide with the American Society of Anesthesiologists conference in San Diego. Earlier this year, Joe had submitted four medically challenging cases, and all of them were accepted for the ASA. Because his department will reimburse travel expenses, I decided to take advantage of a free hotel room and tag along.


    In brief, we stayed at the Sofia Hotel (very nice and modern appointments but tiny, so it’s a good thing we aren’t large people). The first night we met up with ThatGirl and her husband, Thatboy. They greeted me with a belated birthday present – a bag full of her favorite San Diego treats including the three most important food groups: bread (with some local jam as well), booze (hard cider and a local beer), and chocolate. Then we headed out to Starlite, their favorite restaurant, for some delicious cocktails and burgers. The food and drinks were great, but I particularly liked the architecture and ambience. It was very 1970s-lounge but without the sleaze factor.

    The next morning, Joe and I went for a run along the harbor, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the conference. Joe’s dad (also Joe) drove down from LA, where he was for business, to join us, and his hotel room had some killer views as well as being right next door to the convention center.


    We walked around the convention center for a while before Joe had to put up his posters. Joe showed his dad how to do an epidural and intubate someone on a simulator, and then it was time to present!


    I didn’t understand anything that was being presented, though I still walked around and looked at some of the other posters and tried to seem pensive and impressed. I might be a little biased, but I thought the Vanderbilt posters (and Joe’s particularly) were the most professional and aesthetically interesting posters that I saw. Of course, Joe had some help with last minute editing from a certain spouse who does a lot of writing.


    After that, we headed to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, for the opening reception. There was lots of fun food like tamales, nachos, cotton candy, hot dogs, and fish tacos. I can’t even remember the last time I had eaten cotton candy so I had to get some. Then Vanderbilt had a reception at the Marriott, so we headed there. Between the food at Petco Park and the food at the Vandy reception, we skipped our reservation for dinner and loaded up on the mashed potato bar (roasted garlic!) and chocolate covered strawberries.

    The next day was more of the same thing – presenting posters, wandering around the expo, and attending some lectures. We met Joe’s cousin, her husband, and kids at The Fish Market. Since living in a land-locked state, fresh fish has a particular appeal, especially when it doesn’t have to go very far. Thanks to Thatgirl, I was loaded down with all kinds of delicious-sounding recommendations for places where we could eat and drink. We decided to make reservations at Searsucker, a new restaurant by Brian Malarkey, and our friends Brett and Katie joined us. The food was good and of high quality, but the service was a bit spotty.


    Now this is where Thatgirl makes me look like a rock star. We took our friends to a secret bar. Noble Experiment is a bar within another bar, and you make reservations via text message. It’s similar to Nashville’s Patterson House in the atmosphere and quality of the drinks but way more secretive. So we walk into the bar that houses Noble Experiment, go down the hallway with the bathrooms, and there is what looks like a wall of kegs. Brett and Katie start wondering why I’m pushing on the wall, and, like Indiana Jones, the wall of kegs is actually a door that leads to the bar. We had a great time there, and the drinks were inventive and extremely high-quality, though not inexpensive.

    After all of that rich food and beverage, my body was craving a lot of vegetables and plant proteins, something exactly like this quinoa-stuffed acorn squash. I noticed that the original recipe included garbanzo beans, which I think would’ve been more appropriate for the sort of Moroccan flavor the recipe is going for. The brown sugar/butter mixture is also expendable. I didn’t feel that it added much to the recipe since the acorn squash were already sweet enough. My changes are reflected in the recipe. Because you make the quinoa and vegetable mixture while the squash cooks, it’s a relatively quick weeknight meal considering you’re roasting squash and perfect for a clean meal after an indulgent weekend!


    Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash
    adapted from FitSugar


    3 medium acorn squash, halved and seeded
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 cloves garlic, chopped
    2 stalks celery, chopped
    2 carrots, chopped
    1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
    1/2 cup golden raisins
    1 cup uncooked quinoa
    2 cups vegetable broth
    1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin
    Salt and pepper to taste
    6 teaspoons shredded cheddar cheese


    1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
    2. Arrange squash halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, or until tender.
    3. While the squash is baking, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic, celery, and carrots, and cook five minutes. Mix in the beans and raisins and continue to cook and stir until vegetables are tender.
    4. Boil two cups water, one cup quinoa, and the bouillon cube together. Once this comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes until quinoa is cooked. Season cooked quinoa with cumin, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the veggies and beans.
    5. Stuff each squash halve with about a cup of the quinoa veggie mixture, and sprinkle with one teaspoon cheddar cheese. Cook another five minutes or until the cheese is melted.

    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Pumpkin Pancakes for One

    Let’s talk about breakfast for just a minute. You know, the most important meal of the day? I’ve never been one to skip a meal and have always been a breakfast eater, mostly of the cereal variety. Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to have some protein at breakfast, which usually comes in the form of Greek yogurt or soy milk. I can’t do solely doughnuts or pancakes or waffles for breakfast. No matter how much I eat, it always seems like I’m hungry a few hours later.

    Pancakes are not a weekday breakfast. Pancakes are for lazy Saturdays and sleeping in and drinking cups of coffee. Except for these pancakes. They’re quick, easy to mix together, and only make two large-ish pancakes, perfect for breakfast for one. And you only dirty two bowls and one pan. For my protein fix, I had some Morningstar veggie sausage patties on the side. There isn’t a ton of sugar in these so I don’t feel like I’m on some kind of sugar-high after eating them. They’re just moist and full of those wonderful fall flavors. I topped mine with some plain yogurt and a drizzle of agave nectar, but feel free to go all-out and use butter and maple syrup. If you’re not a big nutmeg fan, reduce it to 1/8 of a tsp or leave it out altogether because the nutmeg flavor is very strong.

    Do you eat different breakfasts on the weekends vs. the weekdays?


    Pumpkin Pancakes for One
    source: Cate’s World Kitchen


    1/4 cup pumpkin
    1 egg white
    1/4 cup buttermilk
    1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    pinch salt
    2 tsp sugar
    1/2 tsp cinnamon
    1/4 tsp nutmeg
    1/4 tsp ginger


    Stir the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger together in a small bowl.
    In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg white, pumpkin, and buttermilk. Stir into the dry ingredients and stir just enough to moisten everything (there will still be a few lumps).

    Heat a skillet over medium high heat and spray with nonstick spray. Pour half the batter into the preheated pan and cook until bubbles appear on the top, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook an additional minute or two. Repeat with remaining batter.
    Serve with maple syrup.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup

    My friend L came over last Friday night to hang out and help me make my birthday cake. Since it was just the two of us and ordering pizza seemed like overkill, I put this in the crockpot earlier in the day so that it would be ready to go when I got home from work. Little did I know, L would be getting engaged the very next day! We both really loved the soup, and I served it with bread on the side.

    This soup seriously blew my mind. It was so creamy with minimal added cream and intensely flavorful. The curry flavors add so much to the soup, and with coconut milk and the pureed beans, the soup has a thick, hearty texture. It does require quite a bit of preparatory chopping, and an immersion blender is a big help, though not necessary. Other than that, you can really just dump the ingredients in the crockpot and let it do its thing. Vegetarian crockpot recipes can be few and far between, so I know I’ll be making this again. It also makes a bunch of food, so it’s perfect for a party or for freezing or leftovers or taking to a couple who just had a baby or to someone whose sick. Basically any occasion that you could think of, this soup would probably fit it.

    What is your favorite freezer meal? Soup? Lasagna? Enchiladas?


    I went a little Jackson Pollock with the cream.

    Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup
    source: Kath Eats Real Food


    • 1 butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and chopped into cubes
    • 1 quart vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1 can lite coconut milk
    • 4 cups navy beans (or 3 cans, drained and rinsed)
    • 2 celery stalks, chopped
    • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tbsp yellow curry powder
    • 1/2 tbsp garam masala
    • 1 tbsp salt
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 1/3 cup whipping cream

    Combine everything but cream in a large crockpot. Set to low and simmer for 6 hours. Then stir in cream and blend with an immersion blender in the crockpot until smooth.

    You can also spoon it into a regular blender to blend it, but be careful that it doesn’t explode all over your kitchen.

    Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and yogurt to top, if desired.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    German Chocolate Cake (My 26th Birthday)

    Today is my birthday, so happy birthday to me! I had dreams of a relaxing and yet fun birthday weekend that totally flew out the window when my cat got sick, the first version of this cake broke coming out of the pan, and my computer died. How’s that for some First World problems? But after a 6 mile run at Percy Warner Park, I was feeling a lot better about life. To add to my feeling better about life, Joe gave me my present right before we left for dinner. I closed my eyes while he went to go get it, and when I opened them, this was sitting right in front of me:


    I was SO surprised and had no idea that he was getting it for me for my birthday. It’s even nicer than I thought it would be, plus it matches our kitchen. If only I had had it for making this cake! Now I have to plan what the first thing I’ll make with it will be. I’m tempted to just beat some egg whites or some whipping cream without much of a plan for it, though I’m thinking pizza dough or even just chocolate chip cookies might be the more logical plan.


    German chocolate cake and I go way back. Growing up in Dallas, there was a phenomenal bakery up the road from our house called Stein’s, and they had the best German chocolate cake and the best cheese pockets. When I was in boarding school in Michigan, my dad brought up a Stein’s German chocolate cake for my birthday which happened to fall on Parents’ Weekend, maneuvering airport security and flying with said cake.

    With no Stein’s German chocolate cake in my near future, I attempted to make my own, trust David Lebovitz to guide me. Of course, I changed a few things, namely omitting the chocolate ganache frosting. Stein’s cake was just the cake and the filling. Most other German chocolate cakes are far too chocolate-y for my taste. That might be a heresy in some circles, but for me, there IS such a thing as too much chocolate. I was also afraid to cut the layers in half, so it’s just a two-layer cake.

    The final verdict: this was a pretty good substitute. The Stein’s version has more of a milk chocolate color and taste to the cake, but the texture was very similar. In fact, this was the best textured cake I’ve ever made, in my opinion. The filling was spot on. Taking the time to toast the pecans and coconut makes a world of difference. Like Annie, I also had to add more coconut to the filling to get it to thicken to the right consistency. It might not be Stein’s, but it was extremely delicious.


    German Chocolate Cake
    source: David Lebovitz via Annie’s Eats

    For the cake:
    2 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
    2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
    6 tbsp. water
    4 large eggs, separated
    16 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1½ cups sugar, divided
    2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. baking soda
    ½ tsp. salt
    1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    For the rum syrup:
    1 cup water
    ¾ cup sugar
    2 tbsp. dark rum

    For the filling:
    1 cup heavy cream
    1 cup sugar
    3 large egg yolks
    6 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
    ½ tsp.  salt
    1 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
    1 1/3 cups sweetened coconut, toasted

    To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper.  Butter and flour the sides of the pans; set aside.

    Using a double boiler or the microwave, melt the bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate with the water, stirring until smooth.  Set aside, letting the mixture cool to room temperature.

    In a clean, dry bowl beat the egg whites on high speed with a handheld mixer until they form soft droopy peaks.  Slowly add ¼ cup of the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form.  Transfer the egg whites to a separate bowl and return the mixer bowl to the mixer base.

    In another bowl, combine the butter with 1¼ cups of the sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the melted chocolate.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed.

    In another bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture on low speed just until incorporated.  Mix in the buttermilk and vanilla extract until combined.  Mix in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold about a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it.  Then fold in the remaining egg whites just until incorporated.

    Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool in the cake pans for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    While the cakes are cooling, make the rum syrup.  Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and heat until the sugar is dissolved, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and stir in the rum.

    To make the filling, combine the cream, sugar and egg yolks in a medium saucepan.  Put the butter, pecans and coconut in a mixing bowl; set aside.  Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of a spoon (170-175° F.)  Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted.  Cool completely to room temperature.  The mixture will thicken as it cools.

    To assemble the cake, cut the two cake layers in half horizontally to yield four layers.  Set the first layer on a cake circle, cut side up.  Brush well with the rum syrup.  Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach the edges.  Set another cake layer on top of the filling.  Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    Shakshuka (and Hauerwas)

    Remember when I threatened to share with you more of my life, like what I’ve been reading (for fun, not just in school), drinking, and thinking about in addition to what I’ve been eating? Well, the time has come to talk about this book, even though I haven’t finished it yet.


    Hannah’s Child: A Theologian’s Memoir by Dr. Stanley Hauerwas. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know who Stanley Hauerwas is, though Time magazine named him America’s Best Theologian in 2001. I don’t know how you become the best theologian, but I am certainly not in the running for that category. Dr. Hauerwas teaches at Duke Divinity School and is close friends with the Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral here, which is why Dr. Hauerwas was in Nashville this past weekend, where he preached and spoke at the adult forum.

    Sometimes a book comes into your life at just the right time, and that’s how reading this book has been for me. Being in seminary myself, I appreciated his thoughts on theological education, and we also share the home state of Texas. He’s very charming, both in person and in the book. As he explained in the forum this weekend, he wrote this book in response to people asking him how he came to think the way he does. To that end, he does a lot of theologian name-dropping, which might turn off people who haven’t read or studied much theology or ethics. For example, one of the parishioners at the Cathedral I was talking to about the book admitted that she finally had to Wikipedia who Karl Barth was, since Hauerwas sure seemed to bring him up a lot. But I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in moral theology and ethics or who wants to be more familiar with an important living, American theologian.


    What do Stanley Hauerwas and shakshuka have in common? Um, I don’t know, a funny name? And I like both of them. Other than that eggs poached in a spicy tomato broth and America’s best theologian are pretty strange topics to share a blog post.

    This dish should be in every quasi-vegetarian’s back pocket, ready to be thrown together at a moment’s notice and provide a warm, satisfying meal. Jen over at Bakin’ and Eggs says this is traditionally served as a breakfast item. So to try it out, I ate the leftovers for breakfast the next morning, and it makes a pretty satisfying breakfast as well. I served it with some warm pita bread and got the thumbs-up of approval from Joe. I’m so glad that I finally made this because it always slips my mind as something I want to try, and now it will go on my regular rotation when I don’t know what to make.

    adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Bakin’ and Eggs

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
    1 small yellow onion, chopped
    5 cloves garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon turmeric
    1 tablespoon paprika
    1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
    Kosher salt, to taste
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
    1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
    Warm pitas, for serving


    Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet with a lid over medium-high heat. Add jalapenos and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, turmeric, cumin and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

    Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands or place in food processor and pulse a few times. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

    Crack eggs over sauce, cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5-7 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with pitas, for dipping.

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Eggplant Bolognese


    The way I see it, there are two main ways that you can reduce the amount of meat in your diet: you can specifically choose to eat meatless meals on specific days (Meatless Mondays or Fridays) or you can reduce the amount of meat you would use in a given dish, which I will refer to as the Bittman Way, after Mark Bittman, the food journalist and author who recently lost a fair amount of weight by eating like a vegan until dinnertime. This recipe, developed by Bittman, obviously falls into the second way of reducing your meat intake.

    Particularly in these early days of fall, who doesn’t love a big pot of Bolognese simmering on the stovetop all Sunday afternoon? The thick, hearty sauce on top of whole wheat spaghetti is such a comfort food, but you don’t have to feel guilty about indulging in this version. The eggplant adds bulk and contributes to that nice meaty flavor. You would hardly guess that you were eating vegetables. I added a couple of sweet peppers to the sauce because I had them lying around, and they contributed a nice sweetness to the sauce. If you don’t have any sweet peppers, I might add a teaspoon of sugar just to round out the sauce a bit. When you’re cooking the beef and the eggplant, try not to stir it constantly so that, when you deglaze the pan, you’ll have all of those delicious and flavorful brown bits to scrape up. That really adds so much to the sauce.

    What’s your favorite Sunday evening meal in the fall?

    Eggplant Bolognese
    source: Cooking Light, October 2010
    Yields 6 servings


    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 1/4 cups chopped onion
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper divided
    • 1/2 pound ground sirloin
    • 8 cups chopped eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds)
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1/2 cup red wine
    • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
    • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
    • 10 ounce uncooked whole-wheat fettuccine
    • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
    • 1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves


    1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and beef. Cook 10 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef.

    2. Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.

    3. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes as necessary. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and red wine vinegar.

    4. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to cooking water. Drain. Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Homemade Pumpkin Puree


    Another year, another pumpkin shortage, or so it seems. Now that October has rolled in, I’ve begun to get a bit impatient. When I do remember to check for canned pumpkin at the grocery store, I have yet to find any, and other bloggers are making me crazy with their pumpkin oats and pumpkin bread. I’m craving last year’s turkey pumpkin chili and creamy pumpkin penne pasta.

    Being a student, I don’t have a lot of time to drive around town and look for canned pumpkin, but I DO have the time to sit at home and roast my own pumpkins to make pumpkin puree. That might sound counter-intuitive, but I worked on my senior project this weekend and this project kept me from throwing the computer against the wall at times (like when the search function went down on the Episcopal Archives site and none of my links would work. Praise the Lord for Google caching everything.) Plus, how awesome is it to make your own pumpkin puree? I felt like I was in a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel, you know, if they had a food processor in that little house on the prairie.

    Whether you can’t find pumpkin readily or you’re concerned about the BPA in the liners of canned goods, making your own pumpkin puree is a good option. The hardest part was scraping out the seeds and pulp, but then you can roast the seeds for later. I’m looking forward to some roasted with Mexican spices on my salads this week for lunch.

    First, you’ll need some pie (or sugar) pumpkins which are readily available at most grocery stores and farmers markets this time of year. Make sure you don’t get ones with a bunch of lacquer on the outside. Those are for decoration. And the ones for carving might prove difficult to roast and are not as tasty.

    Preheat your oven to 350-degrees.


    Cut the stems off the top of the pumpkins. That will help you stabilize the pumpkins when you cut them pumpkins in half. Scoop out all of the pumpkin guts. I like to use a grapefruit spoon. It’s a little small, but the little teeth really help in getting out all the pulp. Throw away or rinse the pulp off of the seeds so you can roast them later.


    Place the pumpkins face-down on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow pan with enough water to have a 1/4 inch depth. Roast these babies for 60-90 minutes. Mine were done at about 60, but you want to make sure the flesh is really soft. A reminder: all of that water can cause quite a bit of steam, so if you’re wearing your glasses when you open the oven, you won’t be able to see anything. Not that I know from personal experience or anything.


    While you wait for the pumpkin to cool, go write another page of your paper, shift your laundry from the washer to the dryer, and get another glass of water. Or do whatever you need to do. When the pumpkin flesh no longer burns your fingers, scoop it into your food processor and give it a whirl for a few minutes.


    To get that thick canned pumpkin texture, I lined a mesh sieve with coffee filters, but you can use cheesecloth or paper towels or even a clean pillowcase. The fresh pumpkin will keep for a few days, but unless you have some really heavy-duty baking planned, you’ll probably want to freeze them in 1 cup portions or so.

    Voila! You have just succeeded in sticking it to the man who withholds canned pumpkin from the shelves.

    source: Pennies on a Platter