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!

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

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!

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

Ingredients

  • 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)

Preparation

  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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Quinoa-Stuffed Acorn Squash
adapted from FitSugar

Ingredients

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

Preparation

  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?

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Pumpkin Pancakes for One
source: Cate’s World Kitchen

Ingredients

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

Preparation

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?

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I went a little Jackson Pollock with the cream.

Creamy Curried Butternut Squash Soup
source: Kath Eats Real Food

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation
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:

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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.

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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.

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

Ingredients
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

Preparation
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.

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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.

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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.

Shakshuka
adapted from Smitten Kitchen via Bakin’ and Eggs

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 jalapeƱo 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

Preparation

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

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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

Ingredients

  • 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

Preparation

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Friday, October 1, 2010

Whole Wheat Pita

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, which is why you don’t see a lot of cookies, cakes, cupcakes, or other sweets like that on my blog. I really only bake those types of things for special occasions or when I can pass them off to friends or classmates. But I do have a carb-tooth. Bread baskets and chip baskets at restaurants stand no chance of not being demolished. My favorite part of pizza is the crust. I prefer bagels to doughnuts and used to be able to happily eat plain white rice. Don’t even get me started on pasta.

When I first started to eat more healthfully leading up to our wedding, the first things that had to be drastically cut back were simple carbs and cheese. We’ll talk about my love of cheese another time. But as my friend Max once said, “Life without margaritas and simple carbs is not worth living.” So I started to trade in those processed white carbohydrate-sources for whole wheat versions. Now I crave the nuttiness of brown rice (wish it didn’t take so long to cook!) and the heft of whole wheat pasta.

Recently I discovered and started using King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour. I can have the health benefits of whole wheat with the silky lightness and color of white flours? Yes, please. So I promise that I’m not lying to you when I tell you that these are whole wheat. If you can’t find white whole wheat flour, these would still be delicious with regular whole wheat flour; you just won’t be able to sneak the whole grains past people quite as easily.

We used these pitas as a base for chicken gyros, which are, as I realized last night, the Greek version of chicken fajitas, and that’s probably why Joe likes them so much. Today I’m looking forward to dipping them in the rest of the tzatziki sauce and some hummus or maybe as the base for one of my old boarding school standbys, provolone melted over mushrooms. This will definitely be my go-to pita recipe from now on!

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Whole Wheat Pita
source: Annie’s Eats
Yields 8 pita

Ingredients
2 ¼ tsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. honey
1 ¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
1 ½ cups bread flour, divided
1 ½ cups white whole wheat flour, divided
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
Cornmeal, for sprinkling

Preparation
In a clean bowl, combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water.  Stir gently to blend.  Whisk ¼ cup of the bread flour and ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until doubled in bulk and bubbly, about 45 minutes.

Remove the plastic wrap and add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 1 ¼ cups bread flour, 1¼ cups whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt.  Knead by hand on a lightly-floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat, and let rise in a warm draft-free place, about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Place an oven rack in the middle position.  Place a baking stone in the oven (if using) and preheat to 500˚ F.

Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball.  Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle.  Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet or other work surface lightly sprinkled with cornmeal.  Once all the rounds have been shaped, loosely cover with clean kitchen towels.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes, until slightly puffy.

Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, onto the baking surface.  (Note: These can be baked on a baking stone or directly on the oven racks.  I use a pizza stone, but either method is fine.) Bake 2 minutes, until puffed and pale golden.  Gently flip the pitas over using tongs and bake 1 minute more.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining pitas.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.