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.