Sunday, October 31, 2010

I have a problem.

I have a very serious problem. An addiction of sorts. I have an addiction to buying fresh produce. It started at the farmer's market. Back when I lived in Michigan, I lived blocks away from the best market you will ever find. And the deals. Oh lordy, the deals. I could get a giant bag of different squashes for one dollar. Or a bushel of honey crisp apples for five dollars. The best part was that all the produce was freshly picked and locally grown. I started by walking to the market or riding my bike, but I had way too much stuff. I brought wagons and even drove occasionally (but I usually forced myself to run errands afterwards so that I didn't feel bad about driving a couple blocks). This may sound great to most people, but I would have more food than I could eat. How does one woman eat a bushel of apples before it goes bad? With lots of strength. I shared and I baked, but things still went bad before I could finish them. I have gotten better and prices have gone up (which really reduces my spending), but I still buy too much.

So to fix this problem I have created meals that I call "everything that's going bad is being cooked." Tonight's meal is full of squash and mushrooms because these kids are looking like they might not make it much longer. It isn't the most streamlined meal and doesn't make the most sense. If I were to have a dinner party, this might not be what I would serve. Maybe parts of them, but not the whole deal. Delicious, healthy, local, and cheap. What more would you want out of a meal.

Squash and Pasta Bake (Thank you Martha Stewret's iPhone app for the inspiration)

1 medium winter squash, I used acorn, roasted
2 medium onions, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
1 pound pasta (shells were in the original recipe, I used cavatappi)
1 pound Italian sausage
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tbls fresh rosemary, minced
1 cup paramesen cheese
1 cup breadcrumbs
extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper

1) Saute onion in pan over low heat in oil, salt, and pepper, covered for about 15 minutes. Stir in shallot and turn heat up to medium and saute uncovered for 10 more minutes.
2) Meanwhile, cook pasta stopping two minutes before time on package. Reserve one cup of cooking water.
3) Add Italian sausage to onion and shallot mixture and turn heat up to high. When sausage is cooked through, add in white wine and rosemary. Continue stirring until wine is reduced. Then add in squash, 1/2 cup cheese, and cooking water. Once combined stir in pasta and salt and pepper to taste.
4) Pour mixture into a pan. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until browned on top.

Sauteed Mushrooms

(This is a thrown together recipe, so there are minimal accurate measurements. Please use your own discretion and tastes for this one.)

Mushrooms of any variety -- I had button, shitake, and oyster, roughly chopped
Olive Oil
Lots of Garlic, minced
dry white wine
Salt and Pepper

1) Heat oil so it gets hot, but before smoking. Brown up garlic quickly.
2) Toss mushrooms in pan and continuously stir until softened, slightly browned, and starting to release their liquids.
3) Pour in some wine and cook until reduced. Season with salt and pepper.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chicky Shnoodle Shoup... yesh

(if you didn't get the title, it's from the comic strip "Mutts" and ever since I read the strip this came from, it has been the only way I discuss what most people call chicken noodle soup.)

I'm still feeling under the weather and haven't gotten in a run for almost a week now, so it's time for some food medicine. I have always relied on the healing power of chicky shnoodle shoup. There are actual studies about it. Broth, protein, carbs, garlic, veggies, all good. Since I'm sick and have no energy I did take some short cuts. And since I haven't burned the calories, I determined to make my recipe even healthier... and I did!

Healing Chicky Shnoodle Shoup

1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large shallot, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, with leaves, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 boxes of chicken broth
1 rotisserie chicken
1 package whole wheat, no yolk, egg noodles
s&p to taste

1) Saute onion and shallot in olive oil until translucent. About 5 minutes. Add in carrots and celery and saute for another 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute until everything is softened and garlic is no longer raw, about 2 minutes.
2) Stir in broth and about two cups of water, more if you like a brothier soup.
3) Dice up the rotisserie chicken, with skin removed and mostly white meat. (I saved the rest for my dog, because I make her food and she has no weight problems.)
4) Add the chicken pieces and egg noodles to soup. Salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a rolling boil, cover, and reduce heat. The soup is ready when the noodles are done.

One of the biggest time savers was to call someone to drop off a rotisserie chicken on their way home from work (Moms are good for that, tell them you're sick and just want to make soup, a chicken will appear on your doorstep.) . Some really good rosemary bread was delivered with the chicken, yum. I saved calories by removing the skin and only using the white meat. I usually start the recipe by boiling chicken parts, both dark and light, with veggies to make a broth and then chopping up all the meat to add to the soup. Also, I found some really great egg noodles at the store a few months ago and picked up a few bags. Whole wheat, yolk free, great tasting noodles. I love the texture of egg noodles in my soup.

On a side note, this was the first time in awhile I didn't get my meat straight from the farm. It's a strange feeling, but luckily Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have decent alternatives. But, aside from emergencies like this, I'm sticking to the farm.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Feelin Flu-ish

Right now I'm laid up with the flu. It's horrible, but luckily the first 24 hours are over and those are the worst. So now I'm just miserable with no taste for food. I'm going to share my new favourite website with you instead of a recipe. I've been trying to eat more fish, but I don't know what to do with it. I grew up with a mom who only prefers dill and maybe a bit of lemon on her fish and it is always roasted in the oven. That gets boring after... one time. Plus I freeze most of my fish (and other meat) as soon as I get it home to keep it from going bad. ENTER stage left: Cook It Frozen. This website is put out by the Alaskan Seafood company, but I have used plenty of other fishes for the recipes and even switched it up a bit. The best thing about it is that some of these recipes only take 15 minutes from frozen! Talk about a breath of fresh air in this crazy world! And while it's cooking, throwing together a pot of couscous only takes 5 minutes or so, perfection!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kale Chips

Dear blog world, sorry about the delays in posting. I have a computer that needs love, but no time to bring it in. Plus I know I will have to part with good ol'Lappy for a few days or few weeks and I have horrible separation anxiety. Hopefully I can gather the courage to drop it off and last until I get it back. But onto more important things.... KALE!

I used to hate kale. The mere mention of this four letter word would cause me to make faces of disgust! But alas, I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and that light is in the form of kale chips. If you know me, you know I'm a fan of roasting everything veg. I make amazing roasted tomatoes and multiple versions of sweet potatoes. Roasted asparagus has become such a staple in my family that it can be found once a week as soon as they show up at the farmer's market. The kale was beyond cheap this week at the market, so I picked some up and gave it another go.

I was in the city all day doing testing (yay for further education!) so I wanted to make something quick and easy to go with my leftovers from yesterday's grilling extravaganza. They take about thirty minutes and need almost no attention. Perfect amount of time to down two glass of good wine to forget about all the testing earlier.

Kale Chips

1 bunch of kale (I had curly, but any kind will do)
1-3 tbls of extra virgin olive oil
1 tbls coarse sea salt
ground black pepper to taste

-Remove stem and rib from kale leaves and chop (or rip if very stressed...) to about 3 inch pieces
-Toss kale, oil, salt, and pepper and put on sheet lined with parchment
-Cook at 300 for about 30 minutes, tossing half way. They will be completely crispy with no soft spots when done

I served this with a fatty dipping sauce

1/2 cup good mayo (I'm in LOVE with the Trader Joe's reduced fat version, it's vegan!)
zest of one lemon
juice of two lemons
spring of fresh thyme
pinch of pink salt
ground pepper to taste

-mix and serve!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Happy Birthday Dear Old Dad!

My dad's birthday is tomorrow, but tonight was easier for making him a birthday dinner. My Dad's mom (my Grandma, duh) was part English. She was amazing. I'm pretty sure that English blood and marrying my Irish mom, gave my dad some interesting tastes when it comes to food. One of those have parleyed into him being a connoisseur of shepherd's pie. I have never tried the traditional version seeing as how I don't like red meat, so tonight we ventured into a new and healthy version. It needs some work, but otherwise it was a great fall meal and it was a yummy SQUARE meal!

Turkey and Sweet Potato Shepherds Pie

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion (or any onion that isn't red), chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground turkey (I used the mixed version, not just ground breast or white)
1 cup vegetable (or chicken) stock
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 TSP fresh rosemary, chopped
1 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 TBSP butter
1/2 cup vegetable stock (or milk if you want)

1) Preheat oven to 375
2) Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water, bring to a boil. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes and then drain. Mash with the butter, stock (or milk), and salt and pepper.
3) Meanwhile, in large pan, saute oil, onion, carrot, turkey, salt and pepper. Cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
4) Add stock, tomato paste, and herbs. Simmer until liquid thickens, about 10 minutes and then stir in peas.
5) Pour mixture into one 1 1/2 quart baking dish or divide into ramekins.
6) Spread the potatoes on top of the meat mixture.
7) Bake until lightly browned, 30-35 minutes.

--The dish ended up being a bit dry. I have a box of turkey gravy from Trader Joe's that I may stir in next time just before adding the peas. I always pictured this dish as being like a stew and it ended up more like meat and veg covered with sweet potatoes. Either way, we polished it all off tonight!

Cranberry-Apple Compote/Sauce
(I just threw this one together, so hopefully my guess of measurements isn't too far off)

1 large apple (I used a fuji)
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar (more or less depending on sweetness of apple and tartness of cranberries)

1) Chop apple into chunks with peel still on.
2) Rinse and pick over cranberries
3) Using a vegetable peeler, make about five strips of lemon zest.
4) Put apple, cranberries, lemon zest, juice from half the lemon, cinnamon stick, water, and sugar into a pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and cover.
5) Let simmer about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Pull out zest and cinnamon stick before serving.

Braised Swiss Chard

1 bunch swiss chard, stems discarded and leaves chopped
1 cup apple cider
1 TSP lemon juice
salt and pepper

1) Heat swiss chard in a frying pan until wilted, about 5 minutes.
2) Stir apple cider, lemon juice, salt and pepper into the greens.
3) Cook over low heat, with a cover, for 20 minutes.
4) Uncover and turn up heat. Continue cooking until liquid turns syrupy.

I enjoyed this meal with Goose Island's Harvest Ale. It was a great fall meal! Desert was my delicious pumpkin bars that I may share the recipe online, but may not. They are one of my secret weapons that I may prefer to be secret.

Until next time...

My Idea Of Fun

I cook. A lot. All the time. So today I decided that my hobby needs to leave my kitchen and my work's break room. I've blogged about everything else before, so why not start one about food? One of my favourite websites is a cooking one and every time I read it, I think "I can do that." So this is me "doing that."

A few things of note for those want to cook with me: I'm not a big meat eater; I'm lactose intolerant (which doesn't stop me from loving butter); I prefer locally grown, organic foods and meats that were treated with respect; for as healthy as I am, I love a giant bowl of creamy pasta (it's why I run); and most importantly, I cook with love and love to cook. I'm willing to spend all my time finding the best ingredients and chopping to the perfect size. Also, I bake too.

Welcome to the journey, hope you packed your best chef's knife!
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