Last Week I Cooked….

20161121_191802Red lentil soup with north African spices. My friend Tim hosted for lunch and whipped this up in about half an hour along with some cornbread. It was so simple, but so good! Especially finishing with the paprika butter. The next day I had a long one at work and didn’t really have a dinner plan…so quick, and comforting soup again! I know it is a tease that you can’t see the recipe at that link, but it is worth signing up for Cooks Illustrated trial to get it (or, drop me a line on the contact page and I’ll see what I can do).

Broccoli cheddar soup. A quick, vegetarian dinner completed in the midst of Thanksgiving prep.

20161124_145229Thanksgiving! I stuck to the menu I laid out last week and it all went off smoothly. My personal favorite was the Brussels sprouts with bacon that were finished with cider vinegar from Thanksgiving. Next time I would crisp the bacon, remove it from the pan, then cook the Brussels in the fat, and return the bacon at the very end. The bread crumbs were superfluous to me, but if you like bread crumbs then they were good ones.

20161125_104847Mashed potato cakes with Brussels sprouts and a fried egg. I’ve yet to perfect the mashed potato cake….but as long as they get hot its all fine. I mixed and egg into these to try to firm them up, but should have let them crisp for longer. Flaws were irrelevant once leftover Brussels and a gooey egg went on top.

20161120_084122Pecan pie. My grandma LOVES pecan pie, so I made her this one. I forgot to add the eggs into the filling after it cooled, half poured it into the crust, then remembered and had to pour it all our to rectify the situation. I am honestly not a pecan pie lover, but this one is not nearly as saccharin as others and was happily accepted by the other dessert eaters around the table. The dough is easy as pie, and I doubled it and froze the other half for my Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. Though it is sticky and I wish the weight for the golden syrup was included so I didn’t have to measure it in cups, the filling comes together easily (just don’t forget the eggs!). Oh and I did not parbake my crust, which I think would be nice but I didn’t have the time.

 

Last Week I Cooked…. (and Thanksgiving Prep)

I finally sat down this weekend to make my Thanksgiving menu. The internet exploded with Thanksgiving inspiration before Halloween, but that was too much too soon for me. Within the week is just enough pressure to get my thoughts in order. Here are some of my ideas from last year and my menu this year:

(All the unlinked recipes are from Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well.)

Before all meal ideas became turkey-centric, I made a few other noteworthy things this week.

20161114_120804Spicy miso ramen express. I guess this was express because once it was actually time to eat, the ramen came together very quickly (and well, this was the first time I made ramen so I don’t have anything to compare it to). The most time consuming part was not actually part of this recipe, but I decided to make this smoked eggplant topping, which was a lot of work and then completely disappeared in the ramen.  So as written this was a very flavorful soup that is definitely worth making again.

Spinach and chickpeas. This dish was the center of a tapas inspired meal. It came together in half an hour, and went splendidly with salami, bleu cheese, sardines, and some red wine.

20161115_184918Pizza with kale and coppa. I’m still working to recreate the best pizza I’ve ever had, which was at Delancy. It was a magic combination of kale and coppa. It is hard to recreate the quality of ingredients, and I’ll never get the wood-fired effect at home, but the flavor profile is getting there. I used the dough and drained crushed tomatoes from this recipe as the base, then used thinly sliced kale, shredded mozzarella, and coppa over the top. The coppa shrinks a lot when it cooks, so I overlap them to get almost full coverage. I think this time around the cheese was my weakest link, so next time I will experiment with other brands/types.

20161118_191852Send the rice down beef and celery. This is my favorite recipe from Every Grain of Rice. It is quick and incredibly flavorful. I had half a head of cabbage languishing in the fridge, so I also made a simple cabbage dish with vinegar from the same book. Easy enough to pull off on a Friday without being overwhelmed, and then feeling super accomplished for also making dinner.

20161119_104016Breakfast hash with kale and onion. Inspired by the Serious Eats home fries I’ve been making a lot of potato dishes recently with sauteed onions and whatever else I have around. This one ended up being a bit onion heavy, but a runny egg and hot sauce on top masks many flaws.

Beer Advent Calendar

beer-advent-calendarIf you need a great gift for a beer lover, a beer advent calendar is hard to beat. Many liquor stores or specialty beer stores (like Craft Beer Cellar) sell single bottles or make your own six packs. (Looking on the Craft Beer Cellar website right now it even looks like they sell something to make a beer advent calendar…but you can do it on your own!) Find 24 distinct beers, keeping in mind the preferences of your beer drinker, but also the fact that you are buying single bottles of beer which is an excellent opportunity to take some risks. I went with 12 ounce bottles and a few 16 ounce cans, but if you are a big spender you can go for 22 ouncer bottles or bombers. It’s fun to make at least the final beer a bomber, and last year I ended with Culmination (which pleased me greatly). I used paper grocery bags to wrap them and just wrote a number on each, but you could get even fancier (that effort would have been lost on my recipient, so I did not bother).

I love the calendar concept for a gift, even if beer is not your chosen medium. Mix it up with other beverages, chocolates, love notes, or anything else. Combine the childhood delight of getting a new gift every day with your expanded adult tastes (or just make one for a kid, they will still love it). Will liked this so much that we decided it would be an annual tradition and switch off making them for each other (which greatly simplifies the process, because buying and storing beer in secret in this house is HARD).

Another huge benefit of the beer advent calendar (besides maybe getting to partake in the consumption yourself), is the entire prep is done before Decemeber even starts, so you’re immediately ahead of the gift game. Instead of dealing with crowds Black Friday, spend a couple hours curating an awesome gift that lasts all month. Cheers!

Last Week I Cooked….

20161107_195132Pasta with caramelized onions, sun-dried tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, garlic, and parmesan cheese. While the pasta water boiled, I caramelized the onions, chopped up about 1/2 a cup of sun-dried tomatoes, and shredded the Brussels (maybe 10?). When the onions were cooked I added the sun-dried tomatoes and Brussels sprouts and tossed so the sprouts wilted. In a small pan I poured a few tablespoons of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes, and added in 4 cloves of garlic that I minced. That mingled over medium low heat until fragrant. When the pasta was cooked I drained it, then tossed with the vegetables, sun-dried tomato and garlic oil, and a bunch of black pepper. Served with parm on top.

20161109_192108Twice baked potatoes with buffalo chickpeas and cauliflower. I can’t quite put my finger on what I didn’t like about this recipe. It may have been that you don’t roast the cauliflower so the flavor wasn’t as concentrated, or the tomato sauce added to the hot sauce which wasn’t exactly right. All in all it was a wholesome, vegetable heavy meal, but I think I will stick to my own buffalo cauliflower method next time. (I did also add some bleu cheese on top, making it not vegan.)

20161110_190207Israeli couscous, roasted cauliflower, radish, feta, and dill. I had half a head of cauliflower already prepped, only two people to feed and no leftovers needed. I raided the pantry for a quick grain and found Israeli couscous. I popped the cauliflower in the oven at 425F (oil, salt, pepper), cooked the couscous, and got out some lemon, more olive oil, feta, dill, and watermelon radish. Once the couscous and cauliflower were done I drizzled them with olive oil and lemon juice, then added the salad toppings.

20161111_081641Crisped potatoes with fried eggs and chard. This was yet another iteration of my most favorite breakfast. This time I used leftover baked potatoes (from the twice baked potatoes), which I cubed and fried.

20161112_194141Smoked chili and pumpkin sausage, squash polenta, and sauteed radish greens. This meal was entirely build around the sausage. I had a vision of it on a bed of squashy, cheesy polenta. I made polenta as usual, then stirred in about 3/4 of a cup of cooked squash and 1/2 a cup of shredded parm. I cooked the sausage, then took them out of the pan and sauteed the greens in the sausage fat. It was a great balance of smokey spice, creamy polenta, and slightly bitter greens.

Last Week I Cooked…

20161031_195225Roasted sweet potato and black bean tacos. It was Halloween, and I didn’t have a full dinner plan so I went back to an old favorite. Halfway through cooking I realized I was making an orange and black dinner. As Will said, it was a “Halloween miracle!!!” and a new tradition was born. I made a quick cabbage topping by massaging some red cabbage with salt and cumin seeds (a riff on the taco topping recipe in The Homemade Kitchen). Also served with Greek yogurt, cilantro, jalapenos, salsa, and hot sauce.

20161101_191405Roasted tofu rice bowls with miso tahini sauce (tofu roasting method from Thug Kitchen). Another favorite in these parts. For veg I used sauteed collards and cabbage, and shredded carrot which I left raw. I always double this sauce, because having too little sauce is the absolute worst.

20161103_120834Dijon lentils with roasted cauliflower and potatoes (shown as I ate leftover for lunch and read Classic German Baking). I think I will have to update this recipe a bit…I used a whole head of cauliflower (2.5 lbs before I removed the stem) and that was perfect for 6 servings. (I still used 1 lb of potatoes and 2 cups of lentils.) I forgot I was out of whole grain mustard, so I just roasted the veg with oil, salt, and pepper.

20161103_190507Bean and beer chili. Hearty, vegan chili for those nights you want something warming but not quite as heavy as this chili.

20161103_190753Date, feta, and red cabbage salad. This salad is just about perfect. The ingredient list is short and the parts come together quickly (you don’t even make a dressing!). It is crunchy, salty, and a bit sweet, plus very pretty and pink.

Whole Wheat Apple Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Sugar

20161029_113500Dating a Vermonter has opened up a world of maple products to me. Maple syrup is just the beginning, and then there is maple sugar, a delightful spread called maple cream, maple cotton candy, and solid maple candies. Will’s mom gave us a jar of maple sugar I have been savoring and trying to find the best possible uses for. Over the weekend I took my favorite buttermilk pancakes, swapped in whole wheat flour, maple sugar, and added a grated apple. Paired with maple breakfast sausage and topped with maple syrup, it was a breakfast to make a Vermonter proud. If you were really tempted you could add some cinnamon to the batter, but I like letting the maple flavor shine through.

Whole Wheat Apple Buttermilk Pancakes with Maple Sugar

Serves 2-3. Adapted from Cup of Jo.

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar (or granulated sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled (plus additional butter for cooking)
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 apple (leave it unpeeled)
  • Maple syrup for serving

Combine the whole wheat flour, maple sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl (make sure it is a bowl large enough to accommodate the wet ingredients as well).

Whisk the buttermilk, egg, butter, and vanilla extract. Grate the apple on the largest side of a box grater. Pick out the seeds and stem and discard.

Add the wet ingredients and the grated apple to the flour mixture, and stir until just combined. Stir up from the bottom and it is ready when there are no more dry pockets of flour.

Preheat your oven to 200F with a baking sheet placed on the middle rack.  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Melt a bit of butter around the skillet and dollop the batter into four inch circles. The pan should be hot enough so that the batter does not spread much after it is added, so adjust accordingly. Cook the pancakes 4-5 minutes, until the edges are set and you can see bubbles on the top. Flip, cook for another 3-4 minutes, and then move to the baking sheet in the oven. Repeat until all batter is used. Serve with maple syrup (and maple sausage, if you eat meat and want to go all out).