Friday, December 14, 2012

Soups: Updated (and snow)

Car Cleaning Post Snow
Last weekend we got a healthy dumping of snow (15 inches), and it looks like we are slated for another storm tonight.  I have been busily finishing the last of my shopping and non-edible homemade gifts.  Tomorrow I will start making some edible treats for Colorado friends before we head to Seattle for festivities including an adapted Italian Seven Fishes Christmas Dinner with my wonderful family.  More to come on that later.

Today's post is really just a quick update to let you know that I have recently made and updated the recipes for two of my favorite vegetarian soups and added pictures as well.  I wrote or adapted the recipes for Black Bean Soup and Quinoa Soup a couple years ago, but they remain a favorite staple.  Enjoy and Happy Christmas (season)!

Monty the Tree

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Gift Guide 2012

We are taking a break from the regularly scheduled Friday Links to talk about gifts for your favorite chefs and foodie loved ones.  There are a few qualities that I think make a wonderful gift: thoughtfulness, utility, and creativity.  Give gifts that will become treasured pieces, and learn to understand what your friend or family member would want and use. Be thoughtful, not hasty, this Christmas.

The Handcrafted: Rustic Natural Edge Bread Boards from this one man Etsy shop are a unique but useful kitchen tool.

The Stocking Stuffer: the Microplane Grater/Zester is a perfect tool for new and seasoned cooks.  The sharp, well designed blades make easy work of citrus, ginger, and anything else.

The Delicate: these Peony Measuring Cups go far beyond the typical stainless set meshing utility with beauty.  They nest for easy storage, and are so pretty you will want to put them out on display.

The Splurge: the Staub Oval Coccette is a tool built to last a lifetime.  This cast iron twist on a traditional dutch oven is a true workhorse in the kitchen. The enamel makes a beautiful dish that is also non-stick, non-toxic, and easy to clean.  

The Cookbook: The Sprouted Kitchen, by star blogger Sara Forte has wonderful recipes focused on whole foods that nourish the body.  With beautiful photography and spot-on recipes, this gift will thrill cooks of all abilities.

Need more ideas?  Check out 2011's gift guide.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Healthy Treats: Raw Brownies

Praise Ullr (or whomever you attribute snowfall to), we woke up to a much needed coat of white this morning, and forecasts are calling for more in the near future.  Our sad slopes have been missing their white sheen, and friends and neighbors gathered last week to celebrate the full moon with a winter-wishing bonfire.  The lack of powder has kept me home-bound, dreaming up genius (I think) homemade holiday gifts.  I am almost done shopping, and in the midst of a few projects (which I might share next year if they succeed), which is a Christmas record for me.  

One thing I have not started yet is baking. While I love the abundance of butter and chocolate and sugar, and an excuse to eat it, sometimes I want sweets that are kinder to my waistline. If you are on the hunt for a lighter treat, a fairly healthy snack, or something that satisfies your vegan and gluten-free friends, these are a knockout.  They taste like a home-made Larabar, with sweetness from dates and coconut, protein from nuts, and a deep chocolate flavor from raw cacao.

Raw Brownies
barely adapted from My New Roots
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/2 cup raw unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup raw cacao (if you are not worried about these being raw or the increased nutritional value, unsweetened cocoa powder is a fine substitute)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 5-7 whole medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds, coarsely chopped
1. Process walnuts in food processor until finely chopped, add coconut and pulse a few more times until combined.
2. Add cacao and salt and pulse to combine.
3. While the processor is running, add the dates, one at a time, until the mixture begins to come together and can be pressed into the processor with your fingers.
4. Remove blade from food processor and loosely mix almonds in.
5. Press mixture into an 8x8 inch square baking dish lined with waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator or freezer for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Friday Links: Homemade Gifts

Happy (black) Friday!  I try my hardest to steer clear of the consumerism that plagues today, and I appreciate the organizations encouraging people to donate to charity.  For me, today is about spending time with family and friends and enjoying time outside to lessen the turkey belly.  If you insist on getting a head start on gifts, take today to start some homemade ones to give your loved ones at Christmas. Cheers!

For the Baker: Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract
For the Mixologist: Cranberry Liqueur or Apricot Ginger Fizz Mixer
For the Hostess: Rosemary Roasted Almonds
For the Sweet Tooth: SG's Cranberry Orange Bark with Almonds or Hazelnut Truffles
For Everyone's Breakfast: Honey Nut Granola

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving!  A lovely holiday surrounded by family, friends, good eats and drinks.  While many people only eat brussels sprouts on Thanksgiving, and maybe at Christmas, they are a fall staple around here.  They make a wonderful addition to the vegetable medley with roasted chicken, and are delightful on their own as a side.  They also happen to be one of Thanksgiving's most healthful foods, boasting high levels of fiber, vitamins C & K, and even quite a bit of protein (3.38 grams per 100 grams).  Roasting these gems at high heat with some scallions removes the bitterness and lends a slightly crunchy, caramelized, and delightful vegetable side. 

Happy Thanksgiving, and eat well!  

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4-6 as a small side (I recommend that you double the recipe for Thanksgiving, see below for an easier method for a crowd)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 2 shallots, sliced into half moons
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • black pepper
1. Pre-heat oven to 425.
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in an oven-safe skillet.  Add garlic and shallots and cook until fragrant.
3. While oil heats and the garlic and shallots cook: trim the ends off the brussels sprouts and slice in half lengthwise.

4. Turn heat off and place brussels sprouts cut side up in skillet, nestling them around the shallots. Return to medium heat and cook without stirring 5 minutes, or until beginning to caramelize.
5. Flip brussels sprouts over with tongs, drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top, and sprinkle kosher salt over the top.
6. Place the skillet in the heated oven and roast 20-30 minutes until soft and caramelized, stirring once during cooking.

7: Season with a little fresh ground black pepper.

***For a fuss-free version of this, or for those of you who do not have an oven-proof skillet.  Put 1/2 of the olive oil at the bottom of a roasting dish, place brussels sprouts cut side down and nestle shallots and garlic around.  Drizzle the rest of the oil and roast in pre-heated oven 45 minutes, stirring once or twice.  I think you loose a little of the garlic and shallot flavor with this preperation, but it is still delicious.***

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Minestrone and Kitchen Meditation

I have often ordered minestrone in a restaurant, expecting a divine compilation of fresh ingredients, beans, and pasta.  Too frequently, I am disappointed by a salty, tasteless soup full of manufactured vegetables.  This fall I began perusing recipes to find that all the best sounding minestrone included pancetta.  I then began a 3 day search for the perfect vegetarian substitution (most common search result: vegan bacon. Really?).  The solution: olives. Kalamata olives are full of flavor, a little bit "meaty," and have a complex saltiness.  I worried that they would take over the soup, but they simply add dimension without distinct olive flavor.

The slow cooking method used here develops a rich flavor that does not need stock or broth, or excess salt to carry the dish.  It needs some time, but you can chop as you go, throwing in each ingredient as it is ready and allowing the flavors to become rich and full.  This dish is a cooking meditation.  Take your time, perfectly dice your vegetables, embrace imperfection, and cook just to cook. Nourish your  body with simple, delicious meal, and your soul with the peace of kitchen meditation.

Adapted from Love & Olive Oil

  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 celery ribs, diced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-oz) can whole tomatoes in juice
  • 1 qt hot water
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped kale
  • 1 piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about 3 by 1 1/2 inches)
  • 1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • Garnish: 1 cup dry ditalini pasta cooked to al dente; grated Parmigiano-Reggiano; drizzle of olive oil.

1. Heat oil in a heavy pot (Dutch oven is perfect) over medium heat and add onions, celery, and carrots, stirring occasionally, while preparing chard.

2. Cut out stems from chard and chop stems, reserving leaves. Stir chard stems into mixture with bay leaf, garlic, 1 tsp salt, and 3/4 tsp pepper, and olives and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and begin to stick to bottom of pot, about 45 minutes total.

3. Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook, stirring constantly, until it starts to caramelize, about 2 minutes. Stir paste into vegetables and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. (Paste may stick to pot, but don’t let it burn.)

4. Stir in tomatoes with their juice, breaking them up with a spoon, then add hot water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of pot.

5. Bring to a simmer. Stir in parmesan rind. Simmer, covered about 20 minutes.  

6. Stir in kale and simmer another 20 minutes, covered.

7. Coarsely chop chard leaves and stir into soup along with beans. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. 

8. Discard rind. Season soup with salt and pepper.

9. If using ditalini, stir in just before serving.  Top with grated Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

10.To freeze: only make enough ditalini for the amount you are serving immediately and stir into serving bowls.  Do not freeze with ditalini because it will turn into a sticky mess.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Links: Winter Soups

Tuscan Bean Soup from The Italian Dish
The snow is coming.  The air is expectant with the incoming storm, and the anticipation is killing me.  We got our first storm a couple weeks ago, but this one is supposed to leave snow measured in feet.  With opening day coming up in two weeks, we are all ready for the flakes to fall.  I love soup on a snowy night.  The windows in my tiny house steam up, and outside is still and beautiful, reminding me of what I love about living in the mountains.  Here is a roundup of delightful soups for your snowy (or just cold...) weekend.

The Italian: Tuscan Bean Soup
The French: French Lentil Soup
The Vietnamese: Vegetarian Pho

And from the archives at SG:

The simple classic: Potato Leek Soup
The healthy choice: Black Bean Soup
The party dish: Chicken Chili
The travel-inspired: Quinoa Soup

Enjoy the weekend, and make some soup!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Shrimp Phad Thai and a Desert Weekend

We got our first big snow a couple weeks ago, and promptly loaded our bikes and tent in the car for the quick(ish) 3 1/2 hour drive to the desert of Moab, UT where the sun was shining and it was 70 degrees.  We rode the famous Slickrock Trail, as well as the popular (almost famous) UPS to LPS to Porcupine Rim shuttle route.  While Slickrock was fun, I loved the shuttle ride.  Maybe it was the 2 miles of climbing for 16 miles of downhill, or the lack of other riders, or the beautiful views of Castle Valley, but I would highly recommend it.

After our ride on Sunday, we stopped at the Thai restaurant in town for a very early dinner (5pm), and promptly devoured our HUGE servings in about 10 minutes before hitting the road.  Generally we are believers in slow food, but we were starving. My all time favorite Thai dish is Phad See Ew, but I have never found the wide rice noodles, so at home I tend to make Phad Thai.  

Castle Valley
I am not Thai, nor have I been to Thailand, so I am sure this recipe is not all that authentic.  I know it has more veggies than the traditional Phad Thai, but that is how I like it.  I think the sauce is fairly accurate, so you could omit the broccoli and pepper, and garnish with bean sprouts for a more "real" version.  Some Moab photos are at the end.

Shrimp Phad Thai

for the sauce:
  • 1 to 1.5 Tbsp. tamarind paste , to taste
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock*
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1.5 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. sirracha
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 3-4 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar
  1. Place all ingredients in a cup and stir to dissolve both tamarind paste and sugar. At this point the sauce should taste strong.
  2. Use immediately, or store refrigerated up to 2 weeks.
  3. Makes enough for 1 batch of Phad Thai (below).
*you can substitute vegetable stock or water, just add ~1 TB oil to the sauce

Make the Phad Thai:
  • 6 oz Phad Thai Brown Rice Noodles
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 cup firm tofu, cubed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red bell pepper, julienned
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound raw shrimp, tails and shells removed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 batch Phad Thai Sauce
  • Cilantro and lime for garnish
  1. Boil 2 quarts water and then remove from heat.  Place the noodles in the water until just limp but not fully cooked. Remove and set aside.
  2. While the water is boiling heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan or wok (this is one recipe that I use non-stick for).
  3. Add onion and a sprinkle of salt and stir until translucent (about 1-2 minutes).
  4. Push onions aside, and fry tofu until brown in the center of the pan.
  5. Add broccoli, red pepper and garlic, and cook 1-2 minutes.
  6. Push pan contents to 1 side and cook shrimp until beginning to turn pink.
  7. Push shrimp to side, and add the beaten egg.  Do not stir 1-2 minutes until beginning to cook through. Break up with your spoon and mix into rest of dish.
  8. Add the noodles and sauce and stir to combine.
  9. Reduce heat to low. Cover and steam until broccoli is soft and noodles are tender 1-2 minutes.
  10. Serve garnished with cilantro and a wedge of lime.

Slickrock Trail and the La Sal Mountains

Thanks Kristi for the ride in your sweet VW

Castle Valley View from UPS
The Rim

Riding Porcupine

Headed to the river
Finish of Porcupine Rim

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Classic Potato Gnocchi

Snow is falling on Aspen, and has been for the past 24 hours.  We had an overnight transformation from fall to winter.  With the snow came a need for comfort food and red wine (and salad of course), and gnocchi sounded perfect.

Ahhh gnocchi.  Finally, as promised, the recipe is here.  The delicate texture of these dumplings mixed with a perfect sauce makes brisk nights seem warm.  I first had gnocchi on a trip to Italy in 2005, and completely forgot about it for many years.  One night we visited a new restaurant in Denver, only to find gnocchi on the menu.  I have tried (and failed) to make gnocchi in the past, but over the past 2 months I have been perfecting this technique i found at the Italian Dish, and am ready to share it. The keys to this method are baking the potatoes (to achieve the dry potato flesh needed for gnocchi), making the dough while the potato is still warm, and using only the egg yolks for a richer flavor and improved texture.

Potato Gnocchi
serves 3-4
 Barely adapted from the Italian Dish Blog

Note: While not required, a potato ricer makes gnocchi so much easier.  If you choose to mash the potatoes by hand, use a fork and be very gentle.  Too much mashing can break down the cells and allow excess water to be released, which makes for a gummy dough.

  • 2 medium baking potatoes, about 1.5 pounds total (doesn't have to be exact)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • almost 2 cups flour (you may not use all the flour)
1. Bake potatoes at 400 degrees until tender (about 30-45 minutes).
2. Lightly beat egg yolks, and set aside.
3. Allow potatoes to cool until you can just handle them, and scoop flesh into potato ricer and press into yolks while whisking to prevent scrambling of the eggs. The potato needs to be warm to allow binding with the egg and flour.
4. When the dough gets too thick, stop whisking and finish pressing the potatoes.
5. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and work into a cohesive dough with your hands.
6. Turn dough out onto lightly floured counter or board and kneed lightly until dough comes together, adding additional flour 2 tablespoons at a time.  The dough should not be too sticky or firm.  You want a cohesive dough, with minimal visible flecks of potato. See photo.

Finished dough
7. Slice off a small piece of dough with a scraper or large knife, and roll to 3/4 inch diameter.  Slice into 1/2 to 3/4 inch gnocchi.  Set aside on floured towel until finished cutting all. Remember the gnocchi will swell when they are boiled.

8. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add gnocchi in batches, and when they float to the top cook 1 more minute before removing with a slotted spoon.
9. Place gnocchi directly into the sauce of your choice, and allow to simmer gently for at least 3 minutes before serving. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Links: Halloween

Two weeks has come and gone, and I have sadly not posted any recipes.  It is not for lack of cooking, and I have an almost perfected gnocchi recipe which will be up soon.  However, I have been sticking to some old favorites like Chicken Chili and Roasted Chicken, which are already posted on this blog.  So look forward to some delightful gnocchi, and for now enjoy the Halloween links.

Healthy and festive: Quinoa Stuffed Jack-O-Lantern Peppers
Pretzels to spook you: Ladies' Fingers and Men's Toes
For a gourmet sweet: Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes with Meringue
A kid-friendly treat: Devil's Food Whoopie Pies, with eyes!
Beautiful and bite-sized: Mini Caramel Apples

Friday, October 5, 2012

Friday Links: Pumpkin Recipes

The first Friday in October seems to call for an abundance of pumpkin recipes.  Pumpkin cans line the shelves and fresh pumpkins are in the produce section.  The trees are bright gold under a blue sky, and afternoon hikes are rewarded with baked treats and hearty meals.  Below are some unique pumpkin recipes to go along with the traditional pies and breads.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes: pumpkin for breakfast.
Curried Pumpkin Soup: a different type of pumpkin spice.
Pumpkin Lasagna: an excellent vegetarian main course.
Pumpkin Cookies with Chai Icing: sugar and spice and everything nice.*

and from SG:

Pumpkin Orzo with Sage: rustic pasta for a brisk night.
Pumpkin Bread or Pumpkin Cream-Cheese Muffins: not too sweet, just enough spice.

*I made these cookies a couple weeks ago and they were delightful.  Leave a comment if you would like the altitude adjustment.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dutch Oven Chicken and Rice

Served with a sunflower sprout and raspberry salad.
Happy October.  The sun has been shining here this weekend, but the nights have been leaving frost on the windows.  All of the ski movies were in town for a weekend event, and we have been dreaming of winter snow and comfort food.  Chicken and rice is a classic that can be done so many ways.  When I first started visualizing this recipe, I looked to google for inspiration.  I found that to some, chicken and rice was made with cans of cream of mushroom soup.  I knew it was going to take some creativity to come up with a recipe that was delicious and healthy.  This recipe uses chicken thighs for full flavor, but there are no cans of soup around here. The dish is a little time consuming, but requires very little hands on time.

Dutch Oven Chicken and Rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, for a lower fat version use 3 breasts cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut into half moons
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 cup brown basmati rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock, homemade preferred
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, I used sage and parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in large dutch oven.
3. Sear chicken until browned, about 2 minutes per side.
4. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on a plate.
5. Reduce heat to medium and add onions and a pinch of salt.
6. Saute onions until translucent, then reduce to low and allow onions to caramelize.  This should form a fond on the bottom of the pot, as seen in the photo, and the onions should lightly brown (15-20 minutes).

7. Add garlic and mushrooms and stir for 1-2 minutes until garlic is fragrant.

8. Add rice and stir for 1 minute longer until rice is becoming translucent.
9. Stir in 1/2 cup of the stock, scraping all the brown bits off the bottom of the pot.  Add the rest of the stock and nestle the chicken into the vegetables. Sprinkle the herbs on top.

10. Transfer the pot to the oven, and cook 60 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to sit covered for another 30 minutes.  Salt and Pepper to taste and serve warm.