Sunday, December 7, 2008

100 Ways with Greens

I wanted to title this post: "OMG: Oh My Greens!" and slump into a corner wondering what I was going to do with all that super-food *goodness*. This was the booty from our latest CSA pickup...three beets and 12 pounds of leafy greenness. In fact, I was actually a bit excited since it was mostly the greens we do like (chard, kale, arugula), so instead of feeling overwhelmed, I was inspired to come up with 100 different (well, as different as you can get) ways of preparing and eating these nutrient-packed vegetables. The list below by and large applies to any number of greens, with the disclaimer that of course kale and collard greens, being sturdier in nature, are better suited to those dishes where the vegetables are not pureed. Unless a recipe specifically calls for kale, any of the preparations below could utilize any variety of leafy green (turnip, beet, chard, dandelion, watercress, mizuna, arugula, spinach, mustard, rapini, sorrel, endive, bok choy, tatsoi, etc, etc, etc) depending on your taste (or what's in your bag)! I am providing links to recipes where I can, but not for such common preparations as quiche, or stir-fry, but if you are interested in specific recipe ideas for any suggestion with out a link, just email me.

I am starting out this list incomplete, and in no particular order with the hopes of adding to it (and meeting my goal) as soon as humanly possible. Soooo here goes...
Note: Changes and updates are in GREEN.

1. Ugali and Sukuma (Kenyan grits and greens)
2. Good ol'fashioned turnip greens and salt pork, bacon or ham hock
3. Korean style greens (blanched and tossed with garlic, sesame oil, rice vinegar and sesame seeds, served warm or cold)
4. Cooked or raw as a filling for sushi
5. As an addition to Egg Foo Yung
6. Gormeh Sabzi (Persian vegetable stew with beans and lamb)
7. Pizza/Pasta sauce
8. Saag Paneer (Indian style curried greens with cottage cheese)
9. Pumpkin-Greens Pasta sauce
10. Middle Eastern Greens Soup
11. Kale chips
12. Batter-fried kale
13. Zuppa Toscana (Tuscan-style potato-kale soup; sub garbanzos for a vegetarian version, but be sure to add some crushed fennel seeds for extra flavor!)
14. Minestrone
15. Greens with Pinenuts and Raisins
16. As part of a quiche or fritatta
17. Stir-fried with sesame oil, ginger, garlic and sweet soy sauce
18. Braised or blanched and served over soba noodles with Thai peanut sauce
19. Greens with cornmeal dumplings (I'm guessing a soul-food variation of Ugali and Sukuma)
20. Butternut Squash and Kale Tart
21. Kale and Ricotta Salad
22. Greens with Bulgur and Dates
23. Kale with Shrimp and Pomegranate Pasta
24. Greens with Shrimp, Chile and Lime over Cous-cous
25. Greens with Ham and Sour cream-mustard sauce over pasta or potatoes
26. Greens prepared as for Sukuma served over mashed beans, potatoes or sweet potatoes
27. Stracciatella (Italian greens and egg soup)
28. Creamed greens
29. Cardamom Bok Choy
30. Mchicha (East African stewed greens with curry powder, coconut milk and peanut butter)
31. Collard Greens Cake
32. In Tom Yum (Thai Hot-and-Sour Soup)
33. In Miso Soup
34. Braised with chiles, garlic and cumin as a filling for tacos, enchiladas or burritos (coupled with sweet potatoes, beans, and chipotle sauce)
35. Greens Patties
36. Braised with mushrooms and garlic as a filling for baked chicken or fish fillets
37. Green crepes (add finely minced cooked greens to crepe batter and fill with mushroom or other filling)
38. Koftas (Indian fried "meatballs")
39. Mixed into meatloaf with feta and sun-dried tomatoes
40. Chopped and mixed with bacon and pepper into cornbread (this is best with the more pungent mustard greens)
41. Sauteed with lemon, basil and betternut squash over pasta, topped with romano or feta
42. Blanched and tossed with carrots and radiccio and honey vinaigrette
43. Sauteed with spaghetti squash, sun dried tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese
44. Tossed with spaghetti squash, bacon, sunflower seeds and vinaigrette, served cold or warm
45. Chopped, cooked greens as pizza or pasta topping
46. Pickled as a condiment for curries and stews
47. Finely minced with rice vinegar, sesame seeds and soy sauce as a topping for sushi or fish
48. Raw greens, chopped, tossed with garlic mayonnaise
49. Shredded with carrots, potatoes, rutabagas or other veggies, mixed with egg and bread crumbs for veggie pancakes
50. In lentil soup
51. Finely minced with beans and seasonings for bruschetta/relish
52. Turned into pesto and mixed with mayonnaise for sandwich spread
53. In mushroom-barley soup
54. Chopped and added to tuna or chicken salad
55. Large leaves can be blanched and stuffed as for cabbage rolls, spring rolls, dolmas etc.
57. Braised with lots of garlic, olive oil, lemon, mint and garbanzo, fava or navy beans and served over cous-cous or polenta
58. Stewed with turnips and Indian-style spices
59. Mustard greens slaw
60. Chopped and mixed with mashed potatoes, cheese and garlic
61. Pureed with garlic, onions, potatoes and zucchini into a creamy green soup
62. Dutch-style hashed kale with potatoes and sausage
Sorrel Pie

64. Stuffed into wraps or Heidi Swanson's
"Skinny Omelets"
65. Spanish style tortilla with potatoes and greens
Kugel-style with pasta and eggs (but I would put cottage cheese in it too!)
Hazelnut and Chard Ravioli Salad
Mixed with Pancetta or Bacon and used as a stuffing for mushrooms
Pizzocheri, traditionally made with cabbage, can also be tasty made with leafy greens
Herb Jam with Olives and Lemon
Rapini Panini with provolone and red pepper paste
Corn, Chard, and Quince Soup
Greens with Sour Cherries
74. Blanched Greens with Lemon and Olive Oil (served cold)
75. Braised Greens with Red Wine
76. Greek Greens Pie (similar to Spanikopita)
77. Stewed with Mushrooms and Pancetta, served over Polenta
78. Gratin with Bechamel Sauce
79. Gratin with Sweet Potatoes
81. Greens, Cheese & Wheat Berry Pie!
82. Kale with Hazelnut Gremolata
83. Eggs Florentine (substitute Chard, Arugula, or other greens for the spinach!)
84. Green Enchiladas with Green Chlie (or Red Chile) Sauce
In Bouillabase
86. Toss washed, slivered greens with minced garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper--especially good with young (tender) Kale

Friday, November 28, 2008

A Small Thanksgiving

Here's an epic post for an epic meal...

Well, it wasn't really an epic meal at all, but a rather small one (as far as Thanksgiving goes), since it was just us, and a couple of our bachelor friends. Everything went perfectly this year as far as timing, preparation, and choice of recipes. Despite a minimal amount of advanced preparation, some last-minute recipe decisions, and a few minor setbacks, everything flowed smoothly along and made for a (mostly) delightful meal.

Per our agreement to a "cooperative" meal, the girls made the pies, doing 90% of the work themselves. I was standing by to guide them and help out with the trickier parts (like transferring the very-full-pumpkin-pie to the oven, etc.)--I'm pretty sure the pies were THE high-point of the meal!

The bird itself was a bit disappointing; though it was a humble 8.5 lbs, and I refrained from filling it with stuffing, it still took almost 4 hours to cook(!). It may have not been fully defrosted (there were still some ice crystals lingering in the neck cavity, even though it had been in the fridge for three full days prior), but I'm starting to wonder if it has to do with the altitude--since I don't adjust most recipes for our high altitude, I never considered whether or not roasting a bird would be impacted. Although the USDA's reference site claims this is not a factor, every bird I've ever cooked takes longer than it should. Maybe it's time to switch to Mark Bittman's 45-minute approach, which would be more economical and use less energy and probably easier to get a more consistent doneness. The flavor was good and it was nicely moist, though.
I neglected to pull the rolls out of the fridge early enough, so they didn't have enough time to rise sufficiently to be soft, and were instead, dense and doughy...but nobody complained! And I used a new pie crust recipe/technique this time, and although it was also very flaky (as touted), it was tough and crispy instead of light and tender. Plus, it was so buttery that the excess butter dripped out of the pie crusts onto the bottom of the oven while baking and fumigated the house! In fact, when my daughter noticed it was foggy outside at the same time, I was accused of causing the whole forest to smoke up!

But, here's what DID work superbly and will surely be recreated again (and again...).

Pumpkin Pie with Chai Spices

After combing cookbooks and computer for pumpkin pie recipes, I settled on a combination version based on what I had on hand. It was wonderful. The texture was perfect, though I thought it could use even more spices.
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin puree, strained and drained
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk (non-instant)*
  • 1/4 cup chestnuts, finely ground (optional or sub almonds or toasted hazelnuts)
  • 1/2 cup chai-flavored syrup**
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp each cardamom, cinnamon, ginger
  • 1/4 tsp each nutmeg and black pepper

Combine all ingredients and mix until well blended. If your batter is lumpy, blend in a blender briefly to combine. Pour into prepared pie crust or baking dish and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F, checking at 45 minutes. The pie is done when the edges are set and the middle is still wiggly.

*This approach lends a creamier taste without the added fat, but you can probably leave it out without any problems, or substitute cream for some or all of the milk.

**If I hadn't had the last of the bottle to use up, I would have substituted 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup molasses

Honey-Pecan Tart

I had two things firmly in mind for this year's pecan pie. It is my favorite holiday pie of all time, and while I can eat even the sweetest and eggiest of them all, I decided that putting the mixture into a tart pan would make for a better nut-to-filling ratio, and I was right. I was also determined to avoid using corn syrup in the recipe. I basically adapted the lower-sugar version here by substituting honey for the corn syrup straight across, and also I omitted the molasses since half of the honey I used was very dark and had a molassesy flavor itself. Everything else was the same (except for the pan size of course). I think the only thing I'll change next time is to use a tart crust or short crust instead of traditional pie dough.

Fruit and Grain Stuffed Acorn Squash

OK, so everyone (including myself) was disappointed that there was no bread stuffing on the table, but this dish was a winner, even with the bachelor crowd! I loved the addition of the kasha, figs and chestnuts. The amounts given are, of course, estimates, and should be changed up to suit your tastes and/or pantry contents. There was more than enough stuffing for 2 large (halved) and 2 small acorn squash; I would recommend it for 4 large, halved squash instead, but plan on half of a half as one serving size as a side dish.
A note on leftovers: I couldn't get over my craving for bread stuffing, I got myself a couple of day-old loaves at the House of Bread (garden herb and whole wheat), cubed up a few slices of each and tossed it together with the leftover stuffing. I scooped out what was leftover of the squash flesh, chopped it up a bit, and threw it in too. Tossed everything together with some broth, the leftover gravy and some additional spices. Yummy again!
  • 1 cup cooked red quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cooked kasha
  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 1 cup chopped apples
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, raisins or currants
  • 1/2 cup chopped chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted (walnuts or hazelnuts would good, too)
  • 1 Tbs poppy seeds
  • 1/3 cup white wine, orange or apple juice
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1/4 cup water or broth
  • 1/2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp each coriander, allspice and cinnamon
Saute onions and celery in 1 Tbs oil until onions are translucent. Toss together with remaining ingredients. Spoon into hollowed out squash halves and bake for 45 minutes to one hour at 350 degrees. Note: I suggest baking them covered, at least for the first 30 minutes, otherwise the top layer of grains will dry out and get very crunchy.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Mustard Seeds

“I never knew I liked Brussels sprouts” were one of our dinner guests exact words upon tasting this dish. While I don’t cook them very often, I usually enjoy Brussels sprouts any way they are prepared (even mushy and over-cooked), so it’s good to get affirmation of this dish from the non-indoctrinated. This was sort of a last-minute “what can I do with the Brussels sprouts” concoction that ended up a winner; including bacon in the mix was a no-brainer.

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 5 slices smoked maple bacon
  • 1 onion, sliced into thin wedges (about ¼-inch thick)
  • 1 Tbs prepared mustard
  • 1 Tbs maple syrup
  • 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar or wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp whole mustard seeds
Halve or quarter the sprouts, depending on their size. Steam 7-9 minutes or until tender. Rinse in cool water briefly to stop their cooking. Meanwhile, chop bacon and fry over medium heat until done (you don’t want it to be crispy unless you want a few crispy crumbs for the top). Remove bacon and let drain on a paper towel. Using the reserved cooking fat, fry onions and sprouts over medium-high heat until onions are soft and sprouts have browned somewhat, about 6-8 minutes. Sprouts should not be too soft, but not too firm, either. While the vegetables are cooking, whisk together maple syrup, mustard and spices. Deglaze the pan with the wine and stir in the mustard mixture to coat all the vegetables. If desired, top with garlic-seasoned bread crumbs (melt 1 Tbs butter or olive oil in a pan, stir in ¼ cup bread crumbs, pinch of salt, garlic powder and pepper, and cook until browned).

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes

Use your preferred method of preparing potatoes for the mashing. We prefer the skins on, so we just give them a good scrub, cut out any bad spots or eyes, boil them whole for 2o-30 minutes or so (depending on the variety), drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid and mash with additional warm milk to desired consistency. Splash in a good dose of good quality olive oil, and some salt and pepper.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tropical Fruits Upside-Down Cake

A far cry from the traditional cake made with canned pineapple and candied cherries, this cake arose from the fact that we had a number of such "tropical" fruits on hand all needing to be used up at once. That, and I'm still trying to use up my vanilla-infused rum, and this recipe helped a lot! This presentation would be stellar (pun intended) with the use of sliced starfruit and kiwis side by side. Please note, however, if using bananas, be sure to serve the cake as soon as you can, otherwise the bananas turn brown-black.

I did not use the typical upside-down cake recipe, but instead, my standby coffeecake recipe for the base. Also, I baked it in an 8-inch square pan, but I thought the cake part was a bit thick as a result; I suggest using a 9-inch pan for better cake-to-fruit ratio.

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (white/whole wheat combination)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbs rum (optional)
For fruit:

  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced thickly
  • 2 pineapple slices, quartered
  • 1 small banana, sliced thickly or quartered
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbs rum
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs butter, melted
For topping:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 2 Tbs sliced almonds
  • 2 tsp sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine butter, brown sugar and rum in baking dish, swirl or stir briefly to combine. Lay fruit slices on top of sugar-butter mixture. Stir together dry ingredients. Add remaining cake ingredients and stir just until combined. Pour batter over fruit and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done. Meanwhile, combine topping ingredients in a small skillet and briefly toast, stirring constantly, until coconut and almonds begin to brown slightly (about 4-5 minutes over medium-high heat). Set aside. Remove cake from oven and let sit 2-3 minutes. Invert onto tray or platter (the best way to do this is to invert the tray/platter onto the pan and carefully flip the whole thing over, tap the pan gently to remove the cake and fruit). Sprinkle coconut-almond mixture on top, slice and serve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Banana Flats (aka Bananadillas)

OK, so we couldn't decide on the best name for these "inventions" (actually inspired by several sources including PostPunkKitchen and chaos in the kitchen), but they sure were a hit with the kids! Don't be afraid to come up with your own combinations...these make a great after-school snack! All steps are easy enough for kids to do by themselves, except maybe the grilling and flipping of the tortilla.

PBC&B (Peanut Butter, Chocolate and Banana) version:
Flour tortillas (we used whole wheat)
Peanut Butter
Thinly sliced bananas
Chocolate chips
Butter or vegetable oil for grilling

Spread peanut butter over half of tortilla. Sprinkle peanut butter with chocolate chips. Lay banana slices on top of chocolate chips and fold. Press gently. Over medium-high heat, melt a little butter in a skillet large enough to hold the tortilla. Place the folded tortilla in the pan and grill for 1-2 minutes on each side, or until browned and crispy and bananas and chocolate have softened. Cut into wedges and enjoy!

Coco-Choco-Banana Flat version: for this one we used cream cheese instead of peanut butter, and sprinkled shredded coconut and cinnamon sugar on the bananas. Both versions were a hit, so it was hard to pick a winner.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Five-Spice Soup

There is something about the combination of sweet soy sauce and Chinese five-spice blend in this soup that is deeply warming and comforting--perfect for a blustery autumn evening. While the name I picked for it is generic, the soup is really a combination of favorites: Vietnamese Pho and Thai Jabchai Yaowalak (a soup of hard boiled eggs, five-spice and sweet soy sauce). You can really use any combination of vegetables that you favor and/or have on hand (green cabbage, baby corn, mushrooms, and mung bean sprouts would be good). Substitute chicken, beef or pork for the tofu if desired, and feel free to use rice noodles or jasmine rice in place of the soba.

We got these beautiful purple Watermelon Radishes in our CSA bag this week--
  • 3 quarts broth or water
  • 4 hard boiled eggs (or one per person)
  • 1/2 pound firm tofu
  • 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder*
  • 1 large shallot head, sliced thinly
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 Tbs sweet soy sauce (substitute black bean sauce, oyster sauce, or 1 Tbs soy sauce + 1 Tbs brown sugar)
  • 1 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1 bunch tatsoi, chopped (substitute spinach, cabbage or other vegetables)
  • 1 large yam/sweet potato, sliced
  • 2-3 small turnips, cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 2-3 scallions, cut on the bias
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Cilantro
  • 1 package buckwheat soba noodles, cooked according to package directions
*substitute 1/4 tsp each ground cinnamon, anise, cloves, ginger and coriander or one 2-inch stick of cinnamon, 1 star anise, 4-5 whole cloves, one 1-inch piece of gingerroot.

Toss sweet potato slices with oil and roast them for 10-15 minutes at 450 degrees, until tender. Set aside. Heat several tablespoons of oil in large soup pot. Saute shallots and garlic just until they start to brown. Add spice powder, eggs and tofu, stir-frying to coat (add additional oil if needed). Add soy sauces and stir until eggs are browned by the sauce. Add broth and turnips. Cover and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add tatsoi and cook 5 more minutes. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add sweet potatoes and remove from heat.

To serve, scoop some noodles into a large bowl, spoon soup over noodles, including one egg per dish. Garnish with cilantro, scallions and lime wedges.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Noodle Kugel

I find it hard to believe that I've made it this far in life and never had Kugel before. I first happened across a recipe for Kugel in Mollie Katzen's Pretend Soup cookbook for kids. Her version is a cold and egg-less one, simple for kids to throw together. Though intriguing, the baked version I found at Smitten Kitchen sounded much more my style, and the story she tells about it was enough to make me want to try it. I followed the recipe fairly closely, not ever having made the dish before, and it was YUMMY. The taste reminded me of blintzes, which I adore. The kids liked it somewhat, but I don't think they cared for the chewiness of the cottage cheese or the crunchiness of the noodles on top, so I had another idea...

I started with a pureed mixture of cottage cheese plus a bit of milk (about 1/4 cup to 1 cup of cottage cheese). I combined the remaining mixture ingredients and poured it over the UNCOOKED noodles in the baking dish. I let this sit overnight so the noodles would soften and soak up the extra liquid. I dotted the top with frozen sweet black cherries before baking. The result was quite similar in taste, but the texture was much softer, though the noodles held their definition. I will probably play around with it indefinitely when I make it again, as that's what I normally do, but the result was definitely satisfying!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Multigrain Soft Pretzels

I usually shy away from yeasted bread recipes between the kneading and the proofing and time it takes to produce. However, this recipe is so simple and quick (as yeasted breads go) that our family has made it several times in the last couple of months. Obviously, the kids love them for breakfast, lunches and snacks, and they love helping to twist the dough into unique shapes! *The barley flour, oat bran and flax seed can of course be substituted by your favorite flours or meals (we have used oatmeal, quinoa flour, rye, and wheat bran in different batches). I normally use a combination of half white and half whole-wheat flour in all of my baking, and if you don’t have any other kinds of flour, bran, etc. on hand, you can simply increase the amounts of both to 2 cups. I have also substituted one cup homemade sourdough starter for ½ cup each of the water and flour mixture.
  • 1 package yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water (approx 90-100 degrees F)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups white flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup barley flour*
  • 1/4 cup coarse oat bran*
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal*
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbs baking soda
  • Boiling water
  • Kosher salt, sesame seeds or other toppings

Stir together the yeast, honey and warm water and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in the flours, bran, flaxseed meal and salt. The dough should be stiff. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. (You might need extra flour for the board depending on how the flours/meals you mixed in take the moisture.)

Cut dough into 8 equal pieces, roll into 15-by-20-inch ropes, twist into pretzel shapes and gently place on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. (Note, if you don’t have non-stick parchment paper, I recommend a cookie sheet dusted with cornmeal so the dough doesn’t stick.) To make the distinctive pretzel shape, cross the ends of the rope twice about 1-2 inches from the ends and fold the loop down over the twisted section. Alternatively, you can make pretzel braids, bagel shapes, or small balls—whatever the kids want—just make sure the shapes and sizes are relatively uniform on each baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes, or until double in size.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Bring 2 quarts of water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda to a boil. Submerge the pretzels one at a time in this solution for 5 to 10 seconds, pushing them under the water with a slotted spoon, then take them out carefully (you can transfer them directly to the parchment dripping wet otherwise they will start to fall apart if you try to drain them too long). Brush with a whisked egg and sprinkle with kosher salt, sesame seeds or other topping if desired. Bake at 475 degrees on the middle rack of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes. They are best straight out of the oven, of course, but if you are storing them, make sure they are completely cool before placing in a bag or container, otherwise the salt will soften and “disappear.” For a healthy snack, we like to dip them in hummus or herbed yogurt cheese (stir your favorite herb blend and salt and pepper into lowfat plain yogurt and let sit in a strainer lined with paper towel overnight or up to 24 hours).

Adapted from:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ugali & Sukuma (Kenyan Style Grits and Greens)

I owe this post to my sister who brought back this recipe from her stay in Kenya, where it is a staple for many. Pure simplicity melds together to make a steaming bowl of comfort--especially welcomed after days of gorging oneself on candy, sweets or other rich foods! Any kind of greens can be used here; I prefer a mix of braising greens, particularly chard or collards, but spinach, kale, mustard greens and others will work as well. Traditionally, the grits are cooked to a very stiff consistency and sliced into wedges to serve. This is the best way to serve the dish if you have quite a bit of pot liquor from cooking the greens. If you prefer the grits cooked softer, as my children do, it's better to cook or strain off some of the liquid. I also really enjoy this dish served with a poached or fried egg and a basic "salsa cruda" on top.

Traditionally for the Ugali (Grits) , regular-grind WHITE cornmeal is used, but you can also use coarser hominy grits. The dish is definitely not the same with yellow cornmeal or polenta, but you can use it if that's all you have. It's hard to explain just how much cornmeal to water to use, as it depends on your preference; I suggest 2 cups water to 1 cup cornmeal for a stiffer mixture, and 3 cups water to 1 cup cornmeal for a softer mixture, but you will have to be the judge. For the stiff version, it is important to stir the cornmeal into the boiling, salted water completely so no lumps form. As it stiffens, form it into a dome in the pan, cover and cook on very low heat for 20-30 minutes. When it is done, cut the dome into wedges for serving.

Meanwhile, wash and coarsely chop your greens. You will need about 6 cups uncooked greens for the portion of Ugali listed above. Chop 1 large tomato and about 1/4 cup diced onion. Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a heavy skillet or wide-bottomed pan. Add onion, tomato and greens and saute 5-10 minutes over high heat, until vegetables have turned bright green and onions are cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

For the "salsa cruda" (which is traditional, it's just not called "salsa"), dice another tomato and another 1/4 cup onion, toss with salt, pepper, and crushed red chile flakes to taste.

Pumpkin Chili (I & II)

Chili is one of those things I usually make when the weather beckons it, so often it ends up a conglomeration of various suitable ingredients I have on hand. Version I may not be very “chili-like” but more of a thick vegetable stew with beans, but I also like my chili loaded up with vegetables like carrots and squash. I decided to add some pureed pumpkin that I had (instead of chunks) and it was a success—making the base thicker and richer than it would have been otherwise (not to mention more nutritious). Proportions are variable, as are contents, so only rough quantities are provided here.
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 sunchokes
  • 2 small crookneck squash
  • 2 cups cooked beans
  • ½ bell pepper
  • 3-4 jalapenos
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • ½ cup roasted tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Cumin, chile powder, salt, pepper
  • Broth or water
Chop all veggies into bite-size pieces. Fry ground turkey with onion, garlic, chiles, bell pepper and spices in the pot you will use for your chili (no unnecessary dishwashing here!). Add carrots and cover with broth or water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. Add remaining veggies and as much broth or water as you are comfortable with. Bring to a boil again, then reduce to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until veggies are soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper and additional hot sauce if you like (my favorite: Chipotle Puree (Rick Bayless’ recipe)).

Basically Version II was the same except I left out the squash and sunchokes, used only black beans, and a bit more roasted tomato puree. A touch of molasses rounded it out nicely. The result was a thick, sweet-spicy (well, my bowl was spicy with the addition of more Chipotle Puree!) warming bowl of vegetarian chili.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chai-Spiced Pear Butter

After staring at several baggies of dried pears I bought too long ago (that obviously nobody has been eating because they would possibly dislocate your jawbone), I decided that they would be perfect candidates for pear butter. I threw them into a pot of water and boiled them until they were soft enough to puree. The flavoring came from a bottle of chai-flavored syrup that I found way too sweet to use to make drinks. You could substitute the typical chai-style flavorings of vanilla, cardamom, clove, and honey, or even make your own syrup by reducing some of that boxed concentrate or sweetened tea. Again, quantities are estimates; cook by "feel."
  • 8 oz unsweetened dried pears (or you can use a couple pounds of fresh pears, too)
  • 1/4 cup chai-flavored syrup (or strong-brewed chai tea + 2-3 Tbs. honey)
  • 2-3 cups water
Bring water and pears to a boil; reduce to simmer and cook 20-30 minutes until pears are well softened (if using fresh pears, the will break down significantly). Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor (or food mill if you have one) and process until smooth. Return to pan, add flavoring, and heat over medium heat (so that pockets of air occasionally break the surface) and cook until desired consistency is reached. Preferrably, the mixture will not collapse on itself when stirred--remember you will (probably) be spreading this onto toast or biscuits.

Spoon mixture into jar(s)--if you will not be eating this right away, you can process in a boiling water bath in sterilized jars for 10-15 minutes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Making Your Own Yogurt without a Yogurt Maker

I have long wanted to give making my own yogurt a shot, but I’ve always been afraid that it would be a tricky, delicate procedure that wouldn’t be worth the trouble. Was I ever wrong! The process is quite easy, involving only a few simple steps, and the kids got a big kick out of seeing the final product (which was practically spot-on). While there isn’t really that much that the kids could help with (other than reading the thermometer and stirring the mixture a few times), I think the benefit here is two-fold: 1) the kids get to create a nutritious alternative to store-bought candy-yogurt, 2) they get to learn a bit about the process of culturing and live bacteria. It is a bit of a lengthy process, so it may be tricky to get the kids involved from start to finish, but really each step is quite brief, with lots of “downtime” in the middle, so that if they can be snagged for a few minutes here and there, I highly suggest including them!

Supplies needed:
1. 1-quart glass jar, 2 pint jars or 4 half-pint jars
2. Candy or meat thermometer
3. 2 qt (or larger) saucepan
4. 2 or 3 quart glass jars (for the culturing process)
5. Small cooler or insulated box (if you don’t have one, you can use your oven set to the lowest temperature, but the process is a bit trickier)
6. One quart milk*
7. One Tbsp plain LIVE yogurt (suggest Nancy’s, Mountain High, or other good quality yogurt with live bacteria)

I consulted my sister, who has been making her own yogurt successfully for several months, and here is the procedure that she suggested:
1. Sterilize the jar(s) that you plan to make the yogurt in in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Reserve the water for Step 4 instead of dumping it down the drain!
2. Heat milk in saucepan almost to boiling (the surface will get frothy).
3. Remove from heat and let cool to 105 degrees F (this is where the thermometer comes in) — this step can take an hour or more.
4. Meanwhile, you can prepare the cooler and remaining jars (which do not need to be sterilized). If necessary, wipe out any dust/debris from the cooler you are using. You will want to fill the cooler with jars filled with boiling water. The idea here is that the cooler will insulate the milk mixture enough to keep the temperature up so that bacteria will continue to grow overnight. I used a small “lunchmate” cooler and needed only two extra jars, but if your cooler is larger, you may need more. You will also want to “insulate” the yogurt jar from the hot-water jars with a dish towel so as to prevent it from getting too hot at first and killing the bacteria.
5. Once the milk has cooled, stir in the yogurt (make sure to stir well to disperse the bacteria).
6. Pour mixture into the sterilized jar(s) and place into the cooler with the hot-water jars, separated by the towel. Set a lid loosely on top of the yogurt jar(s) to prevent contamination.
7. Close the cooler lid (note: if you are using a larger cooler than necessary you may want to cover all the jars with a couple of towels to aid in insulating them).
8. Let sit overnight, or up to 36 hours**
9. Check your yogurt — it can be considered “done” now. Stir and taste. **You can let it sit longer if you want it thicker or more sour, but you may have to reheat the hot-water jars to keep the optimum growing environment.
10. Now you can enjoy your yogurt anyway you want. Our family likes to stir in honey, maple syrup, or jam to sweeten, and top with granola. It is also suitable for smoothies, baking, and anything else you would use yogurt for.

If your yogurt is lumpy, run it through a fine-meshed sieve. If the consistency is not thick enough for you, lined the sieve with cheesecloth or a papertowel and let the yogurt sit for several hours or overnight until desired consistency is reached. The liquid (whey) that drains off of the yogurt is a great and healthy addition to smoothies or baking, so don’t toss it! Also remember to save the last spoonful of your homemade yogurt to make the next batch!

*any kind of natural milk will work (not soy milk, nut milks etc); the lower the fat content, the thinner the consistency of the final product

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cioppino (Italian Seafood Stew)

I was introduced to this dish at the Snow Goose Brewery in Anchorage, Alaska, and again experienced it in San Francisco, reputed to be the birthplace of the Italian seafood stew; neither was like the other, yet both were delicious. You can use any combination of seafood you desire; traditionally, shellfish are cooked in the soup base in their shells, which can make for rather messy eating, but also provides a deeper flavored base. I opted to only leave the tails on the shrimp as the rich tomato sauce would have been everywhere.

  • 1 bulb fennel

  • 1 onion

  • 4 cloves garlic

  • 3 ribs celery

  • 1 small bell pepper (preferably red)

  • 1 28-oz can stewed tomatoes, chopped or ground

  • 3 cups water

  • 1-2 lbs various seafood (scallops, shrimp, mild white fish, mussels, crab, clams, etc.--I used about 8 oz each bay scallops and shrimp and a can of chopped clams)

  • 1 Tbs. dried parsley

  • 1/2 tsp. dill weed

  • 1 tsp. dried basil

  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

  • 1/2 cup white wine

  • Olive oil

  • Salt and pepper

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot. Saute fennel for 5 minutes, until it starts to brown slightly. Add onions and garlic. Saute 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add celery, bell pepper and herbs; stir in tomatoes and water; bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until fennel is tender. Meanwhile, heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet over high heat. Quickly cook scallops and shrimp just until done. Stir in the wine and add seafood and sauce to the soup. If using other seafood, add it to the soup prior to cooking the scallops and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

PS- I think the juice from the clams really helped this along; if you are not using clams, I would suggest some good seafood stock in place of the water.

Creamy Grits/Polenta with Green Chiles and Poached Eggs

While some brands of Polenta/Grits will have you believe that they are one and the same, the grits I grew up on are definitely not polenta. They are made from hominy corn, which is corn treated with lye to remove the hull from the kernel. They have a slightly different taste than the Polenta/Grits, though the texture is relatively the same. What you see pictured here are Polenta/Grits (also called "yellow grits") but I'm sure both will yield ideal results.

Cook grits according to package directions for one serving (I usually use about 1 1/2 cups water to 1/2 cup grits, but you can adjust the amount of either for thicker or thinner grits). Add 1 Tbs diced green chiles (of course I had red ones, too, so I used both), 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 Tbs. butter or a fingerful of grated cheese to the cooked grits. Stir until cheese is melted. Serve topped with poached egg, fresh ground pepper and an additional spoonful of green chiles. With fall quickly settling in, I had a craving for something warming and soothing. This definitely hit the spot!

For perfect poached eggs, I used Smitten Kitchen's advice. Note: this was only my second attempt at poached eggs without one of those little cookers; after the first time I tried it, I swore I'd never cook them in this way again; thanks to Smitten Kitchen I will probably never use the cooker again!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mushroom-Butternut Squash Posole

I had such high hopes for this idea... Traditional posole is one of our family's favorite dishes, and I often make it with other additions such as squash, carrots, etc. While the leftovers actually were better than the stew was on day one, I would change the following recipe in a number of ways before making it again the same way.

  • 2 cups fresh posole (aka nixtamal or hominy corn)
  • 6 oz mushrooms, halved
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 6 cups broth
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin seed
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 dried red Anaheim or Guajillo chiles, rinsed with stems and seeds removed
  • Fresh cilantro

In blender, combine spices, garlic, and chiles with 1 cup warm broth. Puree until chiles and garlic are sufficiently chopped. Meanwhile, saute onions briefly to par-cook them. Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and stir. Cook on low heat 6-8 hours or high heat 3-4 hours, until squash and posole are tender (posole will appear split and puffed). Garnish with cilantro. Serve with warm cornbread or tortillas.

If I were to attempt this dish again, I would probably make any number of the following changes:

-Chop mushrooms up smaller

-Use black or red beans (possibly in place of the posole, too)

-Use roasted red bell pepper in chile puree

-Add a dollop of barbecue sauce (I did this to the leftovers I had, which helped)

Note: If you can't find fresh posole, you can substitute the canned variety, but add it to the slow cooker 1 hour before it is finished or it will turn to mush. Also, in some areas, you can find uncooked posole/nixtamal corn (this is NOT the same as dried field corn); it may take slightly longer to cook than the fresh packaged posole, so I would suggest boiling it in the broth for 10-15 minutes separately before adding it to the slow cooker.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Layered Savory Pie

“Kind of like a quiche, but without the eggs” is how I described it to my girls. The best thing about this (besides how good it turned out!) is that the combination of ingredients is possibly endless. While the idea, I admit, was not completely original (I recently saw something similar at our market) I wasn’t quite sure how I would go about it and what the results would be. Surprisingly, it was just about perfect. I can’t decide whether I liked it better hot or cold…of course you lose the flakiness of the pastry cold. I think next time I might spread some tangy mustard in place of one of the cheese layers.
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 4 oz quality sliced deli meat
  • 4 oz cheese sliced or grated (sharp white cheddar)
  • 2-3 artichoke hearts, sliced thinly
  • 4 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, sliced and pan-roasted
  • ½ cup chopped, cooked spinach, squeezed
  • 2-3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 small or 1 medium sweet potato
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch thyme

Roll pastry dough out to fit 6 x 9 or 8 x 8 pan, leaving enough to cover the top of the pie. Layer cheese, onion, ham, cream cheese, spinach, artichoke hearts, cheese again if desired, sweet potatoes, and mushrooms evenly in the pan. Press down with the palm of your hand to compress layers slightly. Sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Top with remaining pastry, with slits or holes in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake at 400 deg. F for 25-30 minutes, or until pie is heated through and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes (the extra juices from the mushrooms will soak into the lower layers).

Serve warm, at room temperature or even cold! Makes 4-6 entrée-sized portions.

Substitute any of the following, or, as always, come up with your own combinations. A veggie-only version of this would be great, too!

Favorite pie crust or pizza dough recipe for the crust
Fresh goat cheese, feta, fontina, or other favorite cheese (something not too greasy) for the cheddar
Cooked broccoli or cauliflower or any green leafy vegetable for the spinach and/or for the meat.

About this blog

I’m not a foodie, and I’m not a writer. Why, then, you may ask, start a FOOD BLOG?!? It’s simple, really: to share recipes and cooking experiences with family and friends, or anyone who cares, really.

I am not a trained chef or photographer, but I do cook for my family just about every day of the year. I truly enjoy food, and cooking, and it’s pretty scary when I think about how much time each week I dedicate to something related, whether it’s eating, shopping, prepping, washing, planning, or searching for inspiration. Since I typically only use recipes for guidance and ideas, I expect that you will do the same…consider them a starting point and get creative! The more variations, the better (well, usually)! And for that reason, I cannot always guarantee the same results, not to mention the fact that different cooking implements will affect results invariably. Also note that I am cooking at 7000 ft elevation; if you feel it is necessary to adjust your recipes/methods, feel free, but I almost never make any adjustments (except sometimes cooking times and when using slow cookers or pressure cookers) for the altitude. Call me crazy but it never seemed to make all that much difference to me. It’s not like I’m making anything so precise that it is necessary. Of course I’ve lived at high-altitudes my whole life, so maybe I’m missing something…?

The bulk of what I cook, and therefore what I blog about, are meals for my family. They are not very picky eaters, so I have the luxury of feeding them just about anything. I am continually striving to cook healthier and more wholesome foods, and being part of a community supported agriculture co-op, am obliged to cook “closer to the earth.” Hopefully I can inspire others along the way. I am always searching for new ways to prepare the sometimes mundane selection we get in the mountains of Arizona, and I will try to share our family’s favorites as well. Afterall, food is for eating!



"Copyright" Notice: Nothing on this site is copyrighted (except where indicated); I hereby release any content on this site that is not already someone else’s to anyone who wants to use it (if for non-personal use, a “courtesy of me” would be appropriate, though). Likewise, everything on this site should be considered “original” unless otherwise noted….insomuch as there is such a thing as “original.” If a recipe I post is strikingly similar to yours, please know it was unintentional.