Wednesday, June 15, 2011

6 Reasons Why I Haven't Blogged in 6 months....And, Pumpkin: NOT Just for Dessert!

Well, hello blog!  Nice of you to stick around in my absence.....

Besides the usual excuses of
1) Too much work &
2) Not enough time,
I'll cop to avoiding this space because;
3) It's not pretty.  And I like pretty.  Have I had generous offers to help me with layout stuff?  Yes.  Have I taken advantage of them?
4) I've heard lots of good things from the Wordpress camp and I'm vacillating about switching so I've been non-committal in this space.  Any thoughts on Blogger vs. WP?
5) I don't have a camera and
6) I'm under the impression that food blogs need gorgeous photos of glistening just-picked peaches, bubbling pie fillings, and flaky, delicate crusts.

So, those are my reasons.  But it's what inside that counts and (I'm pretty sure) old words can be transferred to new blogs and.....I'll agree with myself about the power of photos in food blogs but I'll give credit to the strength of strong writing and our collective imaginations to showcase our culinary endeavors.
On to it then, shall we?

Pasta and Kale with Pumpkin Cream Sauce
(Go go gadget imaginations......) Visual that very specific yellow-orange hue of homemade macaroni cheese, or of a bright, creamy curry.  Now, erase the cravings for either of those from your taste buds.  The sunrise color in this dish comes form none other than canned pumpkin.  It looks so much like macaroni cheese (and tastes SO different!) that I'd almost feel badly serving it to someone without prior explanation.  But not that bad.

I had a HUGE bunch of curly kale in my fridge bought with the sole purpose of getting more greens into my diet.  All week long, I had designs on tossing it with pasta and cream as a way to tempt myself into actually consuming it, when I happened to mindlessly pick up one of Rachael Ray's many tomes. (There are varied opinions out there on this omnipresent figure in the food world.  I'll remain mum for the moment. Except to say, harumph to the low-carb theme of that book.) Flipping through, I noticed a recipe that combined kale, cream, and canned pumpkin.  Of course hers was probably accenting a 3 pound pork chop, but I knew then and there that this combo would be draping itself over my next bowl of (high carb, all white flour) pasta very, very soon.
This was over a month ago and I just polished off  the frozen leftovers yesterdays.  Success.

1 pound dried pasta of your choice (I used rotini)
1 large bunch curly-headed green kale (I'm sure you could used purple or lacinto, too)
1 15 ounce can pumpkin (make sure it's not pumpkin pie mix-that has sugar in it)
1 pint (2 cups) of heavy cream
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Nutmeg, salt, & pepper

  1. Bring a large pasta of water to the boil.  Salt the water.
  2. Meanwhile, clean the kale very well & slices the leaves off the stems.  Slices the leaves into thin ribbons or medium-sized chunks.
  3. Cook the pasta in the boiling water according to directions on package.
  4. In the last 3 minutes of cooking, add prepped kale to the pasta water.
  5. While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.  Mix, in a small heavy saucepan, the pumpkin and cream, until combined and simmering.
  6. Season sauce to taste with nutmeg (use sparingly at first, it's strong!), salt, & pepper.
  7. Drain pasta and kale and place bag in pasta pot.  Pour the sauce on top and stir well.
  8. Mix in the parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning.

Blogging from my phone via txt msg- I have seen the future. Was this covered in the book 1984? Next up....Pasta + Kale in Pumpkin Cream Sauce.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Healing Soup

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Honey and Vanilla

"Well, there is a neuro-virus going around..." are not the words that most of us want to hear on an average Wednesday afternoon.
On the bright side, a minor little virus is a wholly tangible and quite tame diagnosis.  Go home, chug Gatorade, enjoy the B.R.A.T. diet and you'll be good as new come the weekend.
The B.R.A.T. diet, for those of you who have been blessed with a life largely free of stomach upset, was a list of 4 bland foods recommended to eat during time of gastro-intestinal distress.  Bananas, rice, apples, and toast are bland but neither tasty nor incredibly nutritionally sound. 
And now, this being a food blog and all, we will leave such unpleasant subjects behind and embark upon a pleasing solution.

Starting to get that light-headed feeling from consuming a gourmet spread of nothing but saltines and white toast, I knew I needed nutrients, stat.  Having been told by a doctor that sweet potatoes are an easy-to-digest vegetable and knowing that a pureed soup is both soothing and easy on the belly, I pulled out a yam and went to work.

In a nod to the B.R.A.T. diet of yore, and with some inspiration from A Homemade Life, penned by Molly Wizenburg, the author of a well-known and enticing food blog, I set about making a sweet potato and apple soup.  The recipe in the book is modeled after a soup recipe of her mother's.  In the book, however, Wizenburg embarks on some culinary creativity of her own and changes the original pear/curry notes to an apple/vanilla background.

I took the idea and shaped it into a soup that had the nutrients to inspire a bit more energy and the subtlely to keep my tummy happy.  This soup, however, is not just a bare porridge for the ill-fallen.  It's a warming mug to begin a hearty mid-winter's dinner or a bowl of filling brightness to sharpen up your January lunch.

Sweet Potato and Apple Soup with Honey and Vanilla

1 large sweet potato, peels left on, cut in to small dice- about 3 cups
1 medium apple, peels left on, cut off the core and cut in to small dice- about 1 cup
1 tblsp olive or vegetable oil
Dash of salt
2 cups of mildly flavored vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 c. applesauce (1 of the 4oz. little containers) mixed with 1/2 cup water (Or 1 cup of apple juice or 1 extra choppsed apple used in the beginning & 1 cup water)
1 1/2 cups of almond milk (can use rice, soy, or cows' milk)

1 tsp vanilla
3 tsp honey

1) Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
2) Add the sweet potato and apple and saute for about 10 minutes, tossing every few minutes until the apple is soft and the potato has gotten a bit browned.
3) Add the stock and applesauce/water combo, cover with a lid and simmer until sweet potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
4) Either using an immersion blender, blender, or potato masher, or puree to desired cosistency.
5) Pour soup back in the pot, taste and add salt.
6) Heat til simmering, add 1.5 cups of almond milk, and re-heat just until hot enough to eat.

Makes 4 1 cup/mug portions or 2 larger dinner-sized portions. 
This recipe can easily be doubled and invites various improvisation; add other vegetables at the beginning, change the spices, and/or garnish with croutons, cheese, and herbs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chanukah Recipes #6 & 7.... 28 Days Late!!!!

Homemade Applesauce and Chocolate Bark Recipes

I know.
I know.  (Do I sound like someone who's primed for receiving Jewish guilt, or what?!?)

Chanukah ended.  27 days ago.  It's 2011 now.
I know.
Exciting distractions like work (and work, and work, and work) got in the way.  I never quite finished my self-imposed Chanukah recipe challenge.
Plus I needed, some time to gather the unabridged tale of my Grandma Gertie's Applesauce.

So.  Let's plunge ahead and get to some food, shall we?

The second recipe in this post is actually something that I've been making for Christmas gifts and New Year's party but it translates well as a flexible, multi-purpose holiday treat.  Chocolate bark, a silly yet visually appropriate name for a thin sheet of hard chocolate mixed or dotted with an endless variety of surprises, is a simple project for those newer to the edible gifting world.  Toy with it and perfect it all year, and by next Chanukah you can gift friends and party hosts tins of your own version, respoendent with blue and white sprinkles or perhaps tart dried fruits.

It being a Chanukah Recipe Fest and all, I'd also intended to share the creation of this,
the perfect partner for these ubiquitous Chanukah delights. 
And while it's a bit late for the holiday this year, I hear that this Internet thing-a-ma-bob should be around for a little while, so bookmark this for next year. Or make it now as a fresh and sweet compliment to winter's heavy braises, stews, and all around warmth-inducing rich dishes.

Applesauce is universally found on grocery store shelves in large jars (or more creative packaging for the under-11 set). However, it's quite easy to produce yourself, not to mention more nutritious and fresh-tasting.

When I asked my father, the family's current resident applesauce maker, to tell me how he earned this title, he told me that a large crew of friends were heading to his friend Henry's camp to create a variety of apple dishes with the current harvest.  My father brought along the foley food mill that my folks had inherited from my maternal grandmother.  Device in hand and pounds of fruit at the ready, but no knowledge of how to actually churn it in to sauce, he turned to an age old solution.  "Ma, how do I make applesauce?"  (Though calling ones' mother from your cell phone somewhere in the woods is more of a decade-ish old solution than age old one...)

My grandmother imparted her wisdom and recipe as follows.

Chanukah Recipe #7

Homemade Applesauce as dictated from my father
1) Quarter and core about 5 lbs of apples (cortland, empire, macoun)
2) Boil 2 cups of water in large pot, dump in apples and juice of 1 lemon. 
3) Boil until soft. 
4) Put apples through foley food mill to remove skins and pulverize apples.

And what if you don't have the fabled foley mill, I inquired?

"Without a mill, you need to peel first. In that case you could use a blender or food processor."

I will note that I, lacking the fancy equipment of a foley mill and being too lazy to peel (I pass the laziness off as truly wanting to preserve the nutrition inherent in produce peels!), I like to just leave the peels on, cut out the core, and mash the finished sauce with potato masher, and serve it pleasantly chunky.  The photo shows my Dad's, milled and peeled version.
Don't forget to keep the seeds from the lemon out of the pot.

This has, of course, endless variations.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and or honey to taste.  Serve cold as a snack, with yogurt and/or granola for breakfast, warm over cake and/or under cream (whipped or not) for dessert.  They are, of course a natural with friend potato pancakes, and they do compliment, I hear from the land 'o carnivores, a nice pork chop.

Chanukah Recipe #8
Chocolate Bark with endless variations

16 ounces, or 2 cups of chocolate- chopped or chips (use dark- and check the label- to keep it vegan or pareve, or use white or milk to your taste)
For double-layer bark, get 12 to 16 ounces of extra chocolate

Approximately one cup of your choice of toppings, chopped small
Some ideas:
Crushed candy canes on a double layer bark- dark chocolate first, them white next
Shredded coconut and a dash of nutmeg for a beach-themed party (pictured below)
Crushed pretzels
Chopped nuts
Chopped dried fruit
Mini marshmallows (try with peanuts for Rocky Road style or with crushed graham crackers for S'mores style
Sprinkles (color coordinated to various holidays and theme parties, of course)

1) Line a standard size cookie sheet with a lip with parchment paper (or very lightly grease the sheet) and keep at the ready.  Get a small flat spatula or big spoon ready too.
2) Put the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and cook on high for 45 seconds at a time, stirring between runs, until smooth, shiny, and spreadable. 
3) As soon as it's smooth and melted, pour chocolate on to the parchment-lined cookie sheet and immediately spread with the spatula all over the sheet.  Don't worry about getting it exactly to the edges or making the edges neat. You just want a thin and even layer of chocolate.

For a double-layer bark,  chill the pan, and when it's totally solid repeat Steps 2 and 3 with the second dose of chocolate.

4) Working quickly, sprinkle your toppings all over the chocolate. If they're chunky press them in ever so lightly.  Alternatively, you could stir the toppings in to the melted chocolate before pouring it on the sheet.  That creates a harmonious flavor with each crunchy bit fully enrobed, though I prefer the sheer prettiness of a sea of colors and textures on top.

5) Chill til firm then break in to irregular pieces and serve or package for gifts.