Saturday, December 31, 2011

Panettone bread pudding

During one of my recent trips to Costco, they were giving out samples of Bauli's panettone. I couldn't believe how deliciously fluffy it was while still being heavily studded with raisins and candied orange peel. The package was a whopping 2.2 lb for less than $8! I added one to my cart without hesitation even though it was quite monstrous in size!

When my family gathered for lunch on New Year's Eve, I decided to use half of the panettone for bread pudding. Bread pudding is one of those homey desserts that often yields praise for something that is so simple to make. I opted to use Giada De Laurentis' recipe, which did not disappoint. I used six extra large eggs and 2% milk in lieu of the 8 large eggs and whole milk. It didn't compromise the end result in the least. If you can get your hands on a panettone or have some leftover from Christmas, I urge you to make this bread pudding. The custard is rich, but not overly indulgent or sweet. The cinnamon syrup makes the bread pudding extra special. Even my mom, who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, raved about this and went for seconds!

Happy 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Are you jam worthy?

Back in September, I ventured into canning for the first time. I was finally prepared to share the fruits of my labor for Christmas. I hope my gift recipients enjoy their jars of jam!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cranberry pecan frangipane tart

Through the course of becoming obsessed with food blogs over the years, I have accumulated thousands of recipes to try from blogs, news articles, websites and of course, cookbooks. I never seem to make much of a dent no matter how little I repeat recipes. Admittedly, there are a few favorites that I will repeat, and nothing says Christmas to me more than the cranberry pecan frangipane tart from Smitten Kitchen.

I think I've made it at least four times now because I love it so much. It definitely helps me appreciate it even more when I only make it around Christmastime. This year, I decided to make one for a family gathering in Buffalo. It's easy to prepare with minimal ingredients and equipment, which is especially important when you have to cook in someone else's kitchen. You never know what ingredients or equipment will be on hand, but you can prepare components of this recipe in advance. I prebaked the crust and prepared all the dry ingredients at home in Chicago. I zested the orange directly into the bag of sugar, which gave it plenty of time to "marinate" the sugar. The crust is like a rich, buttery sugar cookie. The filling is reminiscent of pecan pie, but not as sticky. I love the combination of orange and cranberry. I like to use the full cup of fresh cranberries for that pop of tartness to contrast the sweet pecan filling.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. Sorry for being MIA. Hope to post several updates in the coming days.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lemon meringue cupcakes

My niece recently celebrated her fifth birthday. She unfortunately has a nut allergy, which makes it hard for my sister to indulge in my niece's sweet tooth at traditional bakeries. For her birthday party with friends, I made yellow cupcakes with an easy vanilla buttercream.

For our immediate family's celebration, I made lemon meringue cupcakes. Admittedly even I was a little skeptical about the recipe since lemon desserts can have a tendency to be cloyingly sweet. Instead these were incredibly moist and lemony. The lemon curd had the right amount of sweet and tart. The frosting was quite messy, but it was a great compliment to the cupcake. It toasted up perfectly with the culinary torch.
Easy Vanilla Buttercream
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 3 cups

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp table salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp heavy cream

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ham and kohlrabi bake

We received kohlrabi twice in recent weeks. With the first bunch, I made a modified version of this curry red lentil salad with couscous. While it was good, it was not very  photogenic, and I found that specific bunch of kohlrabi to be very woody. This left me less than enthused when I saw that we had a second bunch of kohlrabi coming our way. I knew I had liked it in the salad with fennel and blueberries I had made over the summer, but fresh local blueberries are hard to come by in December! I saw numerous recipes for a kohlrabi slaw, but that just doesn't whet our appetite. I then stumbled upon Elise's ham and kohlrabi bake. We love ham in our household, and her recipe yielded a lot of love from readers. I set forth making it on weeknight for dinner.

Gathering the list of ingredients was a breeze. However, I always struggle with deciding which dish to use for casseroles. I initially grabbed a small round, 2-quart Pryex. I then realized that it might be difficult to portion out, so I swapped it out for a rectangular 3-quart Pyrex instead. I'm glad I made the swtich because it took me almost twice as long for the casserole to set!

The longer than expected baking time was well worth it. I wasn't paying close attention to the kohlrabi as it cooked over the stovetop, which yielded in the sweet caramelization of the kohlrabi. The diced vegetable became tender and sweet. The "sauce" became custard like, similar to a frittata. We both loved this dish, which would be equally adaptable for any meal of the day! 

Kohlrabi Ham Bake Recipe
adapted from Simply Recipes

3 Tbsp butter
kohlrabi, peeled and diced 
8 ounces thick ham, diced 
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 egg yolks 
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
Pinch of ground nutmeg 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the diced kohlrabi and gently cook until caramelized for 8 to 10 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, beat the egg yolk, and whisk in the heavy cream, flour, mace, salt and pepper until well combined.
3 Place the cooked kohlrabi and diced ham into a 3 qt casserole dish. Pour the sauce ingredients over the kohlrabi and ham. Top with the chopped parsley.
4 Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sixteenth Produce Share

Carnival Squash (Genesis Growers, Illinois)
Carrots (Genesis Growers)
Beets (Genesis Growers)
Cabbage (Genesis Growers)
Gala Apples (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Granny Smith Apples (Nichols Farm, Illinois) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Carnival squash and carmelized onion galette

As you may have noticed, we've received a lot of squash and onions in our weekly produce. Thankfully, they have a long shelf life because I kept pushing them off my weekly menu plan. With the holiday travels rapidly approaching, I cannot put them off much longer.

Given the choice between caramelized onions and raw onions, I will always choose caramelized for its sweet and flavorful qualities. I knew that Smitten Kitchen's butternut squash and caramelized onion galette was high on my list to make. 

Her recipe called for a one pound squash, so I used the pretty carnival squash we received several weeks ago. I sliced the squash into large slices, roasted them for 20 minutes before removing their skin and dicing them into smaller chunks. I then put them back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes to cook through.The carnival squash smelled amazing as I was skinning and dicing them. Even Bailey was patiently waiting by my side hoping that a piece would fall from the cutting board.

We love the crust, having made the zucchini ricotta version this past summer and the cabbage version this past fall. It's wonderfully flaky and buttery. The fontina was a great cheese to pair in this recipe - it was milky and melted to perfection. I've grown especially fond of fresh sage this fall having used it in our Zuni chicken and Thanksgiving herb dressing. It's such a versatile and fragrant herb. 

Serve with a small green salad on the side to make it a complete meal. Even my squash hating husband loved this dinner.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fifteenth Fall Produce Share

I'm pretty excited about this week's share compared to last week's! I loved the Seedling Farms apple cider. Some apple cider varieties are just plain boring, but not Seedling's. The apple flavor was so clean and pure. It tasted like a fall party on my tastebuds. 
Butternut Squash (Genesis Growers, Illinois)
Kale (Genesis Growers)
Turnips (Genesis Growers)
Baby Lettuces (Genesis Growers)
1/2 gallon Apple Cider (Seedling, Michigan)  
Fuji Apples (Nichols Farms, Illinois)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Slow cooker chili and cornbread

You know it's getting colder outside when we start using the slow cooker more regularly. It was a Christmas gift that A received from his family a few years ago, so I leave him in charge of those meals. We turned to Slow Cooker Revolution for a (turkey) chili recipe that is hearty and spicy.

To accompany the chili, I'm constantly in search of the cornbread recipe that is moist and rich. I had hoped to try Rice Kernel's creamed corn buttermilk bread, but I didn't have creamed corn on hand, and I wasn't up for making it from scratch that day. After scouring the internet and our cookbooks, we went with a Bittman recipe. The resulting cornbread was rich and buttery; crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle. We will definitely be bookmarking this for its ease and staple pantry ingredients.

Lighter, Richer Cornbread
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 c Greek yogurt, thinned with 1/4 c milk
4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/2 c frozen corn

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put the butter in 10 inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, until butter has melted and pan has become hot. Twirl the pan to thoroughly coat the skillet.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the yolks and excess melted butter into the yogurt and milk mixture. Stir liquid into the dry ingredients just enough to combine (do not over mix).
4.  Gently fold in the jalapeno and frozen corn. (Shredded cheese would be a nice addition as well)
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into the prepared batter.
6. Pour batter into the butter skillet and bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned and sides have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm on the side of chili.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fourteenth Fall Produce Share

Red Kuri Squash (Genesis Growers)
Celeriac, aka Celery Root (Genesis Growers)
Beets (Genesis Growers)
Kohlrabi (Genesis Growers)
Honeycrisp Apples (Seedling, Michigan)
Bosc Pears (Seedling, Michigan)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mashed potatoes and celery root

Celery root aka celeriac is a new vegetable to us. I wasn't quite sure how to prepare it, but I knew that I could trust Wendy's recommendation for using it in mashed potatoes. She's so right - caramelizing the celery root in butter is so good. I wish I could adequately put it into words, but you'll have to trust me that these are not your everyday mashed potatoes. The flavor becomes more complex, and you know you're eating something special. To prepare your celery root, simply cut off the ends, and cut away the skin with a knife. 

Mashed potatoes and celery root
Adapted from Cooks' Illustrated

4 tbsp unsalted butter
8 oz celery root, diced
1 1/2 lb russet or yukon gold potatoes, peeled, diced, and rinsed 3-4 times
1/3 c chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c whole milk or half & half
kosher salt
minced chives
ground black pepper

1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter until foaming subsides. Add celery root and cook, stirring occasionally. Cook until butter is browned and vegetables are dark brown and caramelized, 10 to 12 minutes.
2. Add potatoes, broth, and 3/4 teaspoon salt and stir to combine. Cook, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally, until potatoes fall apart easily when poked with fork and all liquid has been absorbed, 25 to 30 minutes. 
3. Remove pan from heat; remove lid and allow steam to escape for 2 minutes.
4. Gently mash potatoes and root vegetables in saucepan with potato masher. Carefully fold in warm milk and chives. Season with salt and pepper; serve immediately.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bailey's Birthday: Meatloaf

Today is Bailey's second birthday! I can't believe he turned me into such a dog person! Even my mom and co-worker who aren't animal people admit that he is a irresistible. I made him some mini pupcakes last year, but given how much energy he burns by attending daycare three times a week, I figured protein would be a more suitable treat for him. Only on his birthday, will he get to share in our dinner food!
I have a favorite meatloaf recipe that I have made multiple times - using meatloaf mix or ground turkey, this recipe is a winner. This recipe yields a flavorful, moist meatloaf with the semi-firm texture that is just right. In order to make it safe for Bailey, I mix together all of the ingredients except for the onions and garlic. I then place his portion in individual silicon muffin liners before adding in the onions and garlic for us. I've also played around with a chipotle ketchup glaze and my spicy tomato jam.

Meat loaf adapted from Cooks' Illustrated
2 teaspoons
cooking oil
medium onion , chopped medium
2 medium cloves
garlic , minced
large eggs
1/2 teaspoon
dried thyme
1 teaspoon
kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon
ground black pepper
2 teaspoons
Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons
Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 cup
plain yogurt
2 lb ground turkey or meatloaf mix: 1 lb
ground beef chuck + 1/2 lb ground pork + 1/2 lb ground veal
2/3  cup
quick oatmeal, or Saltine crackers , crushed (about 16), or or 1 1/3 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/3 cup
minced fresh parsley leaves
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Heat oil in a skillet and saute the onion and garlic until softened, about 5 min.
3. Mix all of the ingredients together.
4. From into a loaf and place onto a baking sheet or place meat into a perforated meatloaf pan. Top with 1/4 of the glaze. Bake for 45 minutes before glazing again. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 15 minutes. Serve with remainder of glaze.

Glaze options: 
Brown Sugar Ketchup - 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 4 tsp cider vinegar
Chipotle Ketchup - 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tbsp brown sugar, 1/2 chipotle pepper chopped, 2 tsp adobe chipotle sauce, and 2 tsp cider vinegar

While the meatloaf is resting after being baked, heat the glaze over the stove until slightly thickened. Serve with the meatloaf.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Zuni Roast Chicken

Several months ago, I had purchased a groupon for the Amish Healthy Foods. I already knew that I would be purchasing a chicken from them specifically for Zuni Cafe's Roast Chicken with bread salad. This recipe takes up several pages in the cookbook, which seems quite intimidating, but in the end, it was definitely manageable for a weeknight meal.

We have fond memories of this special chicken during our trip to San Francisco two and a half years ago. I'm happy to say that we were able to recreate it successfully at home. By drying and salting the chicken two days in advance, the resulting skin was crispy and flavorful; the chicken was moist and succulent. I love the subtle tang of white wine vinegar for this salad dressing contrasted by the sweetness of the dried currants.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

Thanksgiving fell on my mom's birthday this year. November is also the birthday month for my dad and my niece. My niece is sadly allergic to nuts, so I find myself with limited ideas when it comes to picking out cake flavors. I had recently made mini pumpkin cupcakes for work, and with pumpkin pie already on my list to make, I didn't want to make a pumpkin cake. I felt badly that my brother in law is allergic to apples, but I had hoped that my pumpkin pie would provide an alternative for him.

I turned to my go-to source for celebration cake inspiration: Baked Explorations. With all the apples we've been receiving in our weekly produce share, it was easy to make my own applesauce for the cake. The cake was wonderfully moist and aromatic with all the wonderful spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves. We all know how much I lust over caramel, and this caramel based frosting is the best I've had. I am not one to favor frosting over cake, but in this case, I could eat this frosting by the spoonful. Both the cake and frosting stand alone very well, but when put together, it's a match made in heaven.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

With a head of cabbage from a recent produce share, I was looking for a good, solid recipe for it. I had fond memories of stuffed cabbage rolls that I enjoyed at last year's LTHForum cookie exchange. I turned to Smitten Kitchen and came across her mother-in-law's recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls. I didn't have a parsnip on hand, but this still made a ton of filling. I ended up just adding the extra filling to flavor the sauce. As usual, this recipe did not disappoint. A had grown an aversion to cabbage after traveling to Poland several years ago, but he gave this his seal of approval. The veggies and beef melded so well together inside the cabbage packets. The filling enhanced the flavor of the tomato sauce as it simmered for 40 minutes. These stuffed cabbage rolls were a warm party in your mouth on a cool fall day. (I've plated two on a small salad plate, not a dinner plate!)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thirteenth Fall Produce Share

Pie Pumpkins (Genesis Growers)
Celeriac, aka Celery Root (Genesis Growers)
Onions (Genesis Growers)
Sweet Potatoes (Genesis Growers)
DOUBLE Jonagold Apples (Seedling, Michigan)  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thai Beef Curry

I can't believe it's already been two months since we had the privilege of hearing Chef Ferran Adria speak at the Harold Washington Library. For someone who has won countless awards, received three Michelin stars, and revolutionized the way people think about food, he was amazingly humble.He spoke openly about wanting to share his passion and knowledge. This openness to mentor is such a wonderful gift, that I wish was more prevalent.

The purpose of Chef Adria's visit to the States was to promote his newest cookbook, A Family Meal. At El Bulli, there is a staff of 75 who eat dinner together before service. Even though diners at El Bulli enjoyed the best ingredients in the world, the budget for the staff meal was only four euros per person. They still strived to create a three course meal, and in doing so, they began to keep record of their recipes. They had hoped that this recipe collection would help other restaurants prepare staff meals. Then it dawned on them to scale the recipes for 2, 4 and 75. The cookbook would then appeal to everyone, including the home cook.

With A working from home a few times during the week, I loved coming home to having dinner ready to eat. He chose the Thai Beef Curry for the first recipe at home. He told me that the beef was incredibly tough as he prepared the meal, which really surprised me given how tender it became after cooking for a couple of hours. It was a fragrant meal to come home to, but it doesn't rival the authentic Thai restaurants in Chicago. We added some bell peppers from our produce share to add some color and vegetables during the last 15 minutes of cooking over the stove.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Brussels Sprout salad with pomegranate and apple

Growing up, I took piano lessons for several years. My lessons would be in the early evening hours so that my dad could pick me up after work. He was often running late to pick me up, so I had to wait at my piano teacher's house until he came for me. Sometimes he would be so late getting me, that I could smell the awful sulfurous aroma of some cabbage family vegetable being prepared for dinner. 

I never confirmed what was being cooked that created that pungent scent, but I always suspected it might be brussels sprouts. Our house never smelled like that, especially since my mom spared us the misery of ever having brussels sprouts. I just knew that brussels sprouts was one of the most hated vegetables, so I always assumed it smelled. Don't you love ignorant adolescents? 

As we all grow up into adults, so do our tastes and palettes. I've learned to be more open and try new things, including brussels sprouts. I've learned to love them roasted, especially with a good grainy dijon mustard. I also love shaved brussels sprouts in salad, thanks to the Publican

In an effort to make a light meal before all the holiday indulgence ahead of us, we made a brussels sprout salad with apples and pomegranate for dinner. We followed this recipe to a T but added some leftover goat cheese from Stamper Cheese. The goat cheese was creamy, tangy, and an indulgent addition that I highly recommend.. Here is a great tutorial to removing pomegranate seeds without all the mess. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

More often than not, weekend breakfasts usually consist of some varying preparation of eggs, and a side of turkey sausage, bacon, toast, or potatoes. However, sometimes, it's nice to change things up, and I was craving  pancakes since it hadn't been awhile. With a can of pumpkin in the fridge for Bailey's kong, it seemed like the right time for pumpkin pancakes. I love the combination of brown sugar, maple, pecans, spices and pumpkin - all the flavors of fall. I turned to Annie's Eats for a recipe to use as a starting point.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
adapted from Annie's Eats
1¼ cups white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar

2 tbsp. ground flax seed
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg, whisked
2 tbsp. applesauce

In a mixing bowl, combine and whisk the flour, brown sugar, ground flax seed, baking powder, salt and spices. Whisk together the milk, pumpkin puree, applesauce and egg in a liquid measuring cup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until wet. (Be careful not to overmix, a lumpy batter will help yield a fluffy pancake)

Heat a greased skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot enough for a droplet of water to sizzle, add a 1/4 cup scoop of batter to the pan. Let cook until bubbles form on the top of the surface. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the other side until golden brown, a couple minutes more.  Transfer cooked pancake to an oven heated to 200 degrees to keep warm if necessary. Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, greasing the pan as needed.  Serve with maple syrup and chopped pecans.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Twelfth Fall Produce Share

Kabocha Squash (Genesis Growers)
Celeriac, aka Celery Root (Genesis Growers)
Cabbage (Genesis Growers)
Red Leaf Lettuce (Genesis Growers)
Senshu Apples (Seedling, Michigan)  

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sweet Ride

A couple of weeks ago, A pleasantly surprised me with a long narrow, kraft box on the kitchen counter. I initially thought it might be a necklace I had mentioned, but it ended up being 3 mini cupcakes from the Sweet Ride. The Sweet Ride had parked its cute vehicle near A's office after work one night. He knows how much I love surprises and chocolate! The box was for chocolate lovers: 2 chocolate cupcakes - 1 with vanilla frosting, another with chocolate frosting, and a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. While I found the chocolate cake itself to be rather dry, the frosting was light and not overly sweet, the way I like it. Meanwhile, this was my first red velvet cake that I could appreciate. I never understood people's fascination with red velvet, but the Sweet Ride changed my mind because the cake was light, fluffy, and moist. 

More recently, I saw that the Sweet Ride tweeted about being a couple of blocks away from my office during lunch hour. Having to go out for a quick errand on a cold and windy fall day, I made a quick detour back to the office for another sampling from the Sweet Ride. Caramel is a very close second favorite to chocolate, so I opted to order the salted caramel cupcake. I loved that the caramel cake was moist and filled with homemade caramel. It was then topped with buttercream frosting and finished with more caramel drizzled on top. I often see caramel paired with chocolate, but sometimes chocolate can overwhelm the wonders of caramel. If you're in the vicinity of the Sweet Ride, I encourage you to give their red velvet or caramel cupcake a try. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pizza Quinoa Casserole

We love pizza in every shape and form: thin crust, pan pizza, pizza bread, pizza bagels, pizza sub, calzones, stromboli, and now a quinoa casserole. I came across an interesting recipe for pizza casserole on Veggie by Season. It was a great use for some of the peppers and onions from our weekly produce share. It came together very quickly with little prep work. I would highly recommend making this as a healthier alternative to pizza or lasagna.

Pizza Quinoa Casserole
adapted from Veggie by Season
Serves 6

1 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
3 cup vegetable stock
Vegetables of your choice: we used 1.5 green peppers, 1/2 onion, (mushrooms, spinach would be good)
3 garlic cloves
2 to 2 1/2 cup prepared marinara
1 cup cottage cheese, drained
1/2 cup quartered pepperoni (Consider: Italian Sausage or Vegetarian meat substitutes)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/8 cup freshly grated pecorino or parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Bring the stock and quinoa to a boil and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.
3. While the quinoa is cooking, saute vegetables and garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes.
4. Mix the cooked quinoa, vegetables, pepperoni, spices and seasoning in a casserole dish. Top with cheese.
5. Top with cheese. Bake for 35 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sweet Potato Muffins with Bacon Pecan Streusel

We have a few sweet potatoes from our weekly produce share, which was perfect timing when I came across this recipe for Sweet Potato Muffins with Bacon Pecan Streusel. I halved the recipe, which yielded 8 muffins. Rather than putting the bacon pieces in the streusel, I topped each muffin with a small bacon piece. Even though the bacon was already cooked before baking, it still infused a nice bacon flavor into the streusel topping. While the muffin was good when it was freshly baked and warm from the oven, I found myself enjoying it more on day 3. It somehow became more moist and richer in flavor.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eleventh Fall Produce Share

Komatsuna (Genesis Growers) - great for stir fry
Kohlrabi (Genesis Growers)
Bell Peppers (Genesis Growers)
Onions (Genesis Growers)
Jonagold Apples (Seedling, Michigan)  
Sensu Apples Apples (Seedling, Michigan) 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Bristol

With the end of the year rapidly drawing near, we've been trying to use more cards from the 2011 A La Card deck. There are a handful of favorites that we return to each year, and the Bristol is one of them. As I had previously written, we are fans of Chef Chris Pandel, and after having seen Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman compete on season 2 of Top Chef Desserts, it was time return to a beloved neighborhood favorite.

We can't help but order a couple of repeat items based on our previous visits. The dill monkey bread is buttery, salty, and fluffy. The dill butter makes this a match made in heaven. It will definitely make an appearance on the menu if we ever host a dinner party. For our salad, we ordered the shaved pork loin over frisee served with a anchoiade sauce that was out of this world.
 For our pasta course, we opted for the raviolo, filled with ricotta and egg yolk in a brown butter sauce, this is pasta heaven.
For our other repeat item, roasted bone marrow is one of A's favorites. With the onion jam, what's not to love? I love their preparation of this rich and indulgent goodness.
For dessert, I have yet to try Chef Rockman's basque cake, but her seasonal items always win me over because I know that some seasonal rendition of the basque cake will always be on the menu. We ordered the fromage blanc served with a buttery shortbread cookie, fresh rosemary, honeycomb, and roasted grapes. I never would have thought to roast grapes, and these were stellar. They were roasted long enough just to warm them while keeping the texture in tact. The honey comb was different than the honey comb we enjoyed in Australia, I had mistaken it for being something candied. The base of the dessert was a smooth, light and tangy panna cotta that was the perfect ending to a rich meal.

Monday, November 7, 2011

527 Cafe, Evanston

I hold a very special place in my heart for Evanston after living there for four years during my time as a student at Northwestern University. The beauty of the campus never ceases to amaze me, especially as the fall leaves start changing colors. Not only is Evanston a great college town situated on Lake Michigan just north of Chicago, it's also a culinary destination. 

The dining scene changes from time to time, and it's always been wonderfully diverse. I remembered enjoying my first falafel as a college student at Olive Mountain. One of the more recent additions to Evanston is 527 Cafe, specializing in Taiwanese cuisine. My parents and I enjoyed a weekend lunch recently, in which there are some additional weekend specials on the menu. We enjoyed Korean Tacos, kimchi beef fried rice, pork chop with rice, and a salty rice roll. My personal favorite was the pork chop with rice. Everything was delicious, and I am looking forward to returning and bringing A along to try more items. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tenth Fall Produce Share

Kale (Genesis Growers)
Red Leaf Lettuce (Genesis Growers)
Buttercup Squash (Genesis Growers)
Onions (Genesis Growers)
Asian Pears (Seedling, Michigan)  
Grimes Apples (Seedling, Michigan) 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baked Oatmeal: Fall

Let's be honest here, I am not a morning person. I really have to make an effort to get to work before 8:30. I struggle to have time in the morning for breakfast at home. I've had to resort to bringing breakfast to work with me. Cereal was an easy standby for me especially since my previous office provided milk for the coffee drinkers. I have this handy container to bring the milk and cereal with me, but I find that the milk leaks very easily.

I remembered the baked oatmeal that I made earlier this spring with fresh summer berries. With fall settling in, I decided to make a fall version by using maple syrup, walnuts, pumpkin pie spice, apples (1 fuji, diced), cranberries (1 cup frozen), and pumpkin (1/2 cup canned puree). If you're not an oatmeal fan, I think this will convert you into an oatmeal lover. It's hard to imagine that this pudding like treat is a healthy breakfast.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chicken Stew

It was a weird day weather wise in Chicago on Sunday. The morning started out gloomy before making way for the sun's brief appearance and finally settled into being a cold and rainy day. 
Barefoot Contessa's chicken stew is rich and comforting for a breezy, fall day. This is the second time I've made it, and after I put it in the oven, it dawned on me that I was short on flour and not able to make the biscuits! I was devastated that I had let this oversight occur. Luckily, I had a nice sourdough round in the freezer from my recent bread making class. However, the biscuits are quite lovely, so here is a picture from the first time I made this dish last winter. If you have the ingredients on hand, it is worthwhile. If you are missing some ingredients or short on time, a nice rustic and crusty bread will make a delicious substitute.

Another time saving tip would be to use Costco's rotisserie chicken. For a more "healthful" adjustment, I reduced the amount of butter from 1.5 sticks to 1, and we didn't notice a difference. I would be interested in reducing it even more next time and trying to use only 6 tablespoons of butter and less flour. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bread making class at Cook Au Vin

As I had previously mentioned, I am greatly fond of the baguettes from Cook Au Vin. I was delighted to see that they had a bread making class via Groupon. I convinced my good friend to come along, and so we signed up for a Friday night class. We were both pretty tired after a long week at work, but we were greatly looking forward to tasting the fruits of our labor with the gorgeous cheese platter that was put together by the staff. 
Chef Vincent charmed us with his French accent, turtle shaped bread, and gracious cooking tips.

We made French baguettes, sour dough, and multi-grain. We took home so much bread at the end of class. I had to freeze most of the bread. Chef advised us to freeze the bread in a paper bag and reheat them in the oven.The bread revived very nicely.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Moroccan Spiced Spaghetti Squash

A couple of weeks ago, we received a small spaghetti squash in our produce share. As I had mentioned before, A is not a big fan of squash. I was in search of an interesting recipe for preparing it, which is actually my first time. I have found that epicurious has been a good source for using seasonal produce, which is where I came across their recipe for preparing the squash with Moroccan Spices. I then googled it to see if any bloggers had posted about this recipe. Why was I not surprised that Smitten Kitchen had made it?! Knowing that it had Deb's seal of approval, I set forth to put it on the weeknight dinner menu. In order to beef it up to be a meal, I put the warm, spiced squash on a bed of spinach, which helped wilt the greens a bit. I then topped it off with chickpeas (drained and rinsed) for some added protein. Chopped cilantro was the perfect garnish.

I love cumin, which lends a smokey flavor. Coriander created a flavor profile reminiscent of curry. Fresh chopped garlic warmed by melted butter was key to tie together the spices. I really like the texture that the chickpeas added, and I think this really made it a cohesive dish for dinner. 

Moroccan Spiced Spaghetti Squash
Adapted from Epicurious
 Serves 2

1 (1.25 lb ) spaghetti squash
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
baby spinach

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Halve the squash, remove the guts and seeds. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the cut halves, and roast for 45 minutes or until tender.

2. Scrape the squash with a fork to separate the strands. Add to a bowl.
3. Microwave the butter for 1 minute at 50% power. Add garlic and spices. 
4. Drizzle melted butter spice mixture over squash and mix well.
5. Create a bed of spinach on dinner plate; top with spaghetti squash, chickpeas, and chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ninth Fall Produce Share

Throughout the summer, I felt like the variety that came in each week's share would be unmatched. However, I was wrong. I have loved the contents of our fall produce shares so much more than I had anticipated. I find the produce to be even easier to incorporate into our weeknight meals. Maybe I just suffered from heat fatigue in the summer and lost interest in cooking through the warm weather. Regardless, I am very happy with the rainbow of vegetables and fruit each week. 

Candy Onions (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Sweet Potatoes (Nichols)
Carnival Squash (Genesis Growers, IL)

Romaine Lettuce (Genesis Growers)
Pears (Seedling, Michigan)

Apples (Seedling, Michigan)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pasta with beets, beet greens (and Italian sausage)

I like beets, preferably fresh (golden) beets, not canned. However, I can only enjoy them in moderation. Meanwhile, A is not much of a fan. Having received two golden beets in this week's produce share I searched out a recipe that did not merely use beets in a salad. My results in Epicurious yielded a pasta recipe with several dozen positive reviews. I skimmed through most of them and decided to incorporate a few revisions to tailor it toward our tastes.

Golden beets are definitely more mild in taste, and thankfully, do not stain to the extent of red beets. My preferred method of preparing beets is to roast them whole, skin intact, wrapped in foil at 425 degrees for 60-90 minutes. They will be fork tender, and the skin will slip right off.

My other two modifications were to use goat cheese instead of parmesan and add two Italian sausages that I had leftover from a previous meal. I wanted the goat cheese to melt into the hot pasta and create a tangy and creamy sauce. I've always been a fan of pairing beets with goat cheese. Italian sausage was also included because I wanted to take this healthful recipe to another level. The written cast of ingredients seemed to be lacking depth.

I had never prepared the beet greens when we had them on hand previously. I was a little disappointed by how plain they seemed since I anticipated them to be bitter. In the end, I had pretty low expectations of this meal. I feared that we'd both dislike it, but we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it enough to have seconds. Roasting the golden beets created a flavor and texture reminiscent of carrots. 

Pasta with Golden beets, beet greens, and Italian Sausage
Adapted from Epicurious

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large onions, halved lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)

2 Italian sausages, casings removed
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 golden beets separated from fresh healthy greens

12 ounces short shaped pasta
2-4 oz goat cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in foil and roast for 60-90 minutes until tender. 
2. Add 2 tablespoons oil and sliced onions to a skillet. Saute until tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Move onions to the side, and make room for Italian sausages in the center.Cook until the sausages brown.Add the minced garlic. Add the remaining 2 tbsp oil and beet greens. Cook until wilted.
3. While the onions are cooking, prepare boiling water for pasta. Follow package instructions for preparing pasta. Reserve 1 cup pasta water.
4. Peel the roasted beets and slice into thin wedges.
5. Add beets, pasta, goat cheese and reserved pasta water to the skillet. Mix ingredients thoroughly and season with fresh ground black pepper.