Sunday, November 28, 2010

Being Thankful for "This Stage"

Most nights we employ a bedtime routine.  After dinner, I clean the kitchen while Chris plays "rough" with the boys and then gives them a bath.  He dresses them in their PJs and they all sit on the couch to read books. 

Most nights, after the kitchen is clean and I've filled everyone's milk orders on the couch, I collect laundry from the bathroom, turn back the covers on the boys' beds, and pick up stray fighter jets and race cars.  I am busy doing things while Chris is reading, trying to begin the following day with a "clean slate" instead of adding to the accumulated mess.

But last night, I sat down in the living room and watched Chris read to our boys.

And my heart broke into 2,000 pieces.  

My kids are so small and precious.

How long will Timothy still be excited to wear shirts that have dinosaurs and construction vehicles on them?

Matthew has his attention fixed on the story, his little mouth turning up at the corners when the inflection in Chris' voice changes.

How long will he be wearing footed pajamas?   How long will his hair be a halo of blond ringlets?

I wish I could pause this moment. 

My heart is so full it just might split at the seams. 

Oh, God.  Please forgive me for wanting to rush through "this stage", or for getting unreasonably frustrated when Timothy takes toys from his brother and clobbers him and makes him cry or when Matthew knocks down Timothy's block castle and makes him cry.  Or when I JUST WANT TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR 5 MINUTES without someone screaming. 

These babies, who I could have SWORN just came home from the hospital last week, will be driving cars and calling girls before I know it. 

Someone hand me a paper bag to breathe in.

People are always telling Chris and I to "enjoy them" because childhood goes by so fast. 

I want to tatoo that on my heart. 

I haven't been doing that enough lately. 

Thank God for fresh starts.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Guest Post: Roasted Garlic and Lemon White Bean Dip

A dear college friend of mine, Wendy Bentien of Charlotte, North Carolina just wrote an article for a Charlotte blog called "Charlotte Smarty Pants." 

Her recipe?  This delicious-looking appetizer.

I can't wait to try it.

I love that she points out it can be prepared with one toddler hanging off your leg and the other one screaming in time-out because "let's be honest:  that's how it is most of the time."

She also says, "If your house smells great when they [guests] walk in, they won't notice the mess."


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cranberry Citrus Sauce

Here's the printable recipe.

Cranberry Citrus Sauce
1 bag fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
zest of whole orange
juice of whole orange
zest of whole lemon

In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, water, citrus zests, juice from the orange, and half of the orange.  Simmer for about 25 minutes (put the lid on because the cranberries will start to pop and make a huge mess).

Remove the orange half, transfer to a large bowl, and allow sauce to cool to room temperature. 

Can be stored (refrigerated) for up to a week.

Happy Thanksgiving

Greetings from Narnia...

I invited this guy inside,
 but he refused.

I suppose getting whacked in the head with sleet
is more appealing than dining with small children.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pumpkin Log with Ginger Buttercream

I've been wanting to make this for years but have been intimidated by the thought of rolling a cake in a dishtowel.

But I did it.

And it was easy!

And so very yummy.

Ina Garten is a culinary hero of mine, and I especially love her cookbook entitled Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients.  I very slightly adapted her "Pumpkin Roulade with Ginger Buttercream" recipe below; I hope you will try it.

I think I'm going to make this Maple Cream Sauce to serve with the pumpkin roll.  (Because at this point, worrying about consuming too many calories is pointless.)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends. 

May there be an abundance of peace and joy gathered around your Thanksgiving table.

Here's the printable recipe.

Pumpkin Roll with Ginger Buttercream
For the Cake
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom*
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting

For the Filling
16 ounces Italian Mascarpone cheese
1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup minced dried crystallized ginger (not in syrup)**
Pinch of kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 13 x 18 x 1-inch sheet pan.  Line the pan with parchment paper and grease and flour the paper.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, and salt and stir to combine.  Place the eggs and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until light yellow and thickened.  With the mixer on low, add the pumpkin, then slowly add the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated.  Finish mixing the batter by hand with a rubber spatula.  Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the top springs back when gently touched.

While the cake is baking, lay out a clean, thin cotton dish towel on a flat surface and sift the entire 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar evenly over it.  (This will prevent the cake from sticking to the towel.)  As soon as you remove the cake from the oven, loosen it around the edges and invert it squarely onto the prepared towel.  Peel away the parchment paper.  With a light touch, roll the warm cake and the towel together (don't press!) starting at the short end of the cake.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone, confectioners' sugar, and cream together for about a minute, until light and fluffy.  Stir in the crystallized ginger and salt.

To assemble, carefully unroll the cake onto a board with the towel underneath.  Spread the cake evenly with the filling.  Reroll the cake in a spiral using the towel as a guide.  Remove the towel and trim the ends to make a neat edge.  Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve sliced.


*I added's not part of Ina's original recipe.
**I didn't have crystallized ginger on-hand, so I substituted 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger.

Brining Your Bird

Brining poultry is one of chefs' best-kept secrets for perfectly tender and moist meat.  It takes just a little bit of planning, as you will need to brine a thawed bird for about 24 hours before roasting it. 

I've combined several different brine recipes here.  Remember:  use what you have on hand and modify if necessary.

You'll need a large non-metal container to let the turkey soak in the "brine bath" in the fridge.


My fridge is packed to the gills because of all the cooking I've done this week, so instead of a giant Tupperware container that I've brined in previously, I'm using Slow Cooker bags.  I'm double-bagging the turkey and brine, to be safe (how gross would that leak be?).  I then set the turkey-containing brine bags inside a large stockpot inside of the fridge. 

Also--we're hosting a smaller crowd this Thanksgiving, so I cheated and just bought a turkey breast (about 6.5 pounds).  You'll want to make enough brine to totally cover your turkey.

Here's the printable recipe.

Turkey Brine
(enough for a 7-pound bird)

1 1/2 quarts water
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup apple juice
rind of one orange, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary (or use 1 tablespoon of dried rosemary or thyme)
2 quarts ice water

Combine 1 1/2 quarts of the water with the salt and sugars in a large stockpot.  Heat just until sugars and salt are dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Add in remaining ingredients. 

Pour cold brine over a turkey that has been well-rinsed.  Set in a non-reactive pot and/or a large plastic tub. (Or you can use a large brining bag.) Ensure the turkey is completely covered with brine.  Refrigerate for approximately 24 hours before roasting.

Before roasting the turkey, discard the brine and rinse the turkey, and pat it dry with paper towels. 

*Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman.  Her original recipe is here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Green Bean Bundles

These sweet, wrinkly bundles will be a hit on your holiday table. 

Watch out--they'll disappear quickly.

Give the green beans a little time to soak up the juices of the flavorful marinade.  I have made these up to three days in advance, then baked them, and they turned out perfectly (i.e. the bacon didn't get gross).  A few days before you want to serve them, just blanch the beans in boiling water for 5-6 minutes (set the timer so you don't overcook them as you'll also be baking them later), let them sit "freely" in the marinade for 4 hours or overnight,

Bundle them,

And refrigerate.  On Thanksgiving Day (or Christmas Day), just bake for 40-45 minutes. 

Then stand back--a blur of hungry hands will swarm the serving dish.

Leave out the bundling step (and the bacon) and they'll make vegetarians smile.

Here's the printable recipe.

Green Bean Bundles
makes 17 bundles of 9 green beans (8-10 servings)

2 pounds fresh green beans (about 6 handfuls), ends snipped*
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
9 slices of bacon, cut in half*
17 toothpicks for securing bundles

Fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat.  Wash and trim the beans.  Add the beans to the boiling water and blanch for 3-4 minutes, until the beans are pliable but still crunchy.  Drain the beans and run them under cold water.  Pat dry with paper towels or a clean dish towel and place them in a shallow ovenproof casserole.  In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the mustard, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, garlic, and salt.  Pour the butter mixture over the green beans, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Make bundles of 9 beans.  Wrap half a bacon slice around each bundle, secure with a toothpick, and arrange in a single layer in the same casserole used for marinating.  Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of brown sugar.

Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes, or until the bacon is cooked and the beans look wrinkled.  Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.


1) Select the longest green beans you can find.  Just barely snip the ends to preserve the length.  It's much easier to wrap long green beans than short ones.

2) Separate the green beans into bundles.  Take the bacon out of the fridge right before you wrap the bundles.  It's easier to work with cold bacon.  The bacon begins to get stringy and falls apart the closer it gets to room temperature. 

3)  Have your toothpicks already out of the box before you begin bundling.  Your hands will be messy, and you'll be glad you have a little assembly line in place.

Baked Apple Pear Chutney

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. 

It's color becomes a bit more rosy in color after it's simmered for an hour...

This chutney is delicious served as an accompaniment to chicken or turkey. 

It's sweet spiciness is nearly irresistible. 

For a "wow" effect, hollow out small apples,

stuff with the chutney,

and bake
for a simply spectacular presentation.

Here's the printable recipe.

Baked Apple-Pear Chutney
6-8 servings

1/2 cup whole pecans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pounds unpeeled pears, cored and coarsely chopped
1 unpeeled Granny Smith apple, cored and coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup good-quality white wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup dried cherries
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon brandy (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Arrange pecans on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven for 7-9 minutes, until darker in color and aromatic.  Remove from the oven, let cool, and chop coarsely.

In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat.  Add the onion, ginger, and garlic and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  (Do not let it brown.)  Stir in the pears, apple, lime juice, vinegar, sugars, salt, cherries, cranberries, and brandy, if using.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour, until the chutney is thickened, most of the vinegar has been absorbed, and the juice has a syrupy consistency.  Remove from the heat and let cool, then stir in the toasted pecans.  To store, cover and refrigerate for up to one week.
Optional:  For a spectacular presentation, buy the smallest apples you can find, never mind the color.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Use a melon baller to neatly scoop out the seeds and core of each apple, starting at the stem end.  Take care not to cut through the very bottom of the apple.  Arrange the apples, cored side up, in the cups of a muffin pan or on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray.  (If using a baking sheet, cut a thin slice off the bottoms of the apples so they will remain upright while they cook.)  Stuff each apple with a spoonful of chutney.  Bake until the apples are soft but not falling apart, 30 to 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Country Cornbread Dressing

This recipe blows packaged dressing (including my old favorite, Pepperidge Farm) out of the water.

It takes more time, yes.

I hope you'll agree that it's worth it. 

(Maybe you won't.  And that's OK.  We can still be friends.)

You can bake this dressing days before, refrigerate it, and reheat it (while adding more chicken broth, if necessary, to keep it moist) on Thanksgiving Day.

Raise your hand if less craziness in the kitchen on Thursday sounds good to you.

I really love having all my ingredients chopped, measured and ready to go when I'm cooking.

Like I did here.

I rarely do this, by the way.

But it is fun.

It makes me feel like I'm on the Food Network.

Only I'm here.

In my tiny kitchen.

Wearing pajama pants.

Surrounded by teetering towers of dirty dishes.

You'll need about 6 cups of cubed bread.

I used half a loaf of wheat French bread.

 Slice it.

 Dice it.

Put it on a baking sheet.

And "toast" it in a 200 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and saute the vegetables,
bacon, and seasonings in a large skillet for about 10-15 minutes.

Put the toasted bread cubes in a bowl.

Add the crumbled cornbread to the bowl.

Mix together.

There is something deeply therapeutic about doing this. 

Add the vegetable mixture to the bread mixture.

Now, beat 3 eggs and add to the bread/veggie mixture.

Stir it well.

Get some chicken stock.

Can I show you one of my secret weapons?

If you don't have any homemade chicken stock on hand, this is what you need.

So much better than a bouillon cube.

And easier, too.

Now, add enough of the chicken stock (or the cheater stuff) to the bread/veggie/egg mixture.

Turn it out into a well-greased baking dish.

Bake for 1 hour.

Check it while it's in the oven!  Drizzle additional stock over it to keep it moist. 

Enjoy the fruit of your labor. 

Here's the printable recipe.

Country Cornbread Dressing
Serves 8-10

1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
2 large celery stalks, chopped
5 smoked bacon slices, diced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (regular oregano works fine)
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound smoked ham, coarsely ground
4 cups crumbled cornbread (about one prepared box of Jiffy cornbread)
6 cups French bread cubes
3 eggs, lightly beaten
About 1 1/4 cups chicken or turkey stock, or more as needed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter in a heavy 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, bacon, seasonings, and ham.  Saute, stirring often, until vegetables are wilted and bacon is cooked but not browned, about 10-15 minutes.  Place cornbread and French bread in a large bowl.  Pour vegetable mixture over bread; toss to combine.  Stir in beaten eggs.  Add enough stock or broth to make a moist dressing, stirring to break up cornbread and French bread.  Turn the dressing out into a large baking dish or casserole and bake in preheated oven for 1 hour.  Drizzle additional stock (or turkey drippings) as needed to keep the dressing moist.  Serve hot.

*Recipe from Texas on the Plate

Sweet Potato Pone

I am not at all sure why this is called a "pone", as that term typically signifies something made with cornmeal.

But who cares.

This stuff is so delicious it will have people banging their heads on the table.

If you want to make it ahead of time, like I am today (four days before Thanksgiving), make the sweet potato mixture and put it in the baking dish.  Then make the topping.  Store them separately in the fridge.  On the big day, set the dish with the potatoes out on the counter about an hour before you want to bake it (to let it come to room temperature).  Right before you bake it, generously cover it with the topping. 

Note:  you'll need to bake the sweet potatoes first.  Depending on their size, that will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

Please, please, please use some parchment paper
beneath the potatoes when you bake them. 

You won't have to scrub the hardened potato goo off the baking sheet.

After the potatoes are done,
set them aside and let them cool off a bit. 

(Or you'll burn your fingerprints off.)

Then, peel them.

I personally find this to be extremely fun.

Just pinch...

then twist and peel.

While the potatoes are still warm, put them in a bowl.
Start mixing in the other ingredients.

Especially the butter.

I love butter.

Add the sugar, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon.
And mix.

Turn out the mixture into a well-buttered baking dish.

And spread it.

Now make the topping.

Add brown sugar, flour, and butter to a food processor bowl.

Give it a whirl.

Add the chopped pecans.

Give it a few pulses.

Go ahead...sample a spoonful. 

It'll make your knees weak.

Add the topping to the potato mixture, bake at 375 for about 45 minutes.

Prepare to be hoisted on shoulders and carried around the room in appreciation of your culinary efforts.

Here's the printable recipe.

Sweet Potato Pone
(serves 6-8)

3 large sweet potatoes, about 27-30 ounces total
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly butter a 13 x 9 inch baking dish; set aside.

Place the sweet potatoes in a second baking dish and bake in preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted into the flesh with ease.  Remove the sweet potatoes and set them aside for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle.  Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees.  Peel the skin from the potatoes and place them in a large bowl.  Mash the potatoes thoroughly.  Add butter, sugar, eggs, evaporated milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, stirring to blend well and melt the butter.  Turn mixture out into prepared baking dish.

To make the topping, combine brown sugar, butter, and flour in work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade.  Process until smooth and fluffy.  Add the pecans and process just to blend, using the pulse feature and leaving the pecan pieces fairly intact.

Spread topping over potato mixture.  Bake in preheated oven until set and lightly browned on top, about 45 minutes.  Serve hot.

*From Texas on the Plate by Terry Thompson-Anderson

Thanksgiving Menu Blitz

Hi Friends,

For anyone who's waiting on the edge of their seat (ha!) for my Thanksgiving menu items, I wanted to let you know that today I will be preparing and presenting at least three side dishes:
  • Sweet Potato Pone
  • Green Bean Bundles
  • Cornbread Dressing
I will also discuss how to brine a turkey--a step which makes it taste incredibly good. 

But, seeing as how I'm home with a sick baby and Chris and Timothy are at church, we'll see how much I actually get accomplished today.

Just wanted you to know that my heart is in the right place!

More later...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Hello, Luvah...

This stuff is amazing. 

It ranks with the best-tasting chocolate ice cream available. 

And it's YOGURT.

But of course I could not leave well-enough alone.

I had to add...

As I took the first bite, this music started playing in the background.


I love a good romance.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Maple Glazed Carrots

Despite the encouragement and invitations of friends and family, I avoided Facebook for years, thinking I needed another thing to distract me on the Internet like I needed a hole in my head.  This is still true, but I did finally sign up for Facebook about two weeks ago.  And wow!  I've really been missing out!  I've reconnected with so many people, including childhood and high school friends.  One of those friends, Robin, mentioned to me that she and her family are vegans.  This made me smile because I have many stand-by recipes which are (unintentionally) vegan, and I'm very happy to share them with you all. 

This is a delicious little dish, and a great addition to your Thanksgiving spread.

The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350 Recipes is teeming with delicious recipes, including this one. 

Here's the printable recipe.

Maple Glazed Carrots
The Maple Glaze
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 cup orange juice
2 oranges, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped (or 1 cup of mandarin oranges, drained)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 pound carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup chopped parsley

To prepare the maple glaze: place the maple syrup, cinnamon stick, orange juice, and oranges in a sauce pot, and bring to a simmer.  (ENJOY THE AMAZING FRAGRANCE!)  In a separate little bowl, whisk together the water and cornstarch until smooth.  Stir the cornstarch "slurry" into the maple mixture, and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, over low heat, for 30-45 minutes, until thickened.  Strain the glaze to remove the cinnamon stick and oranges.*  Cool the glaze.

Steam the carrots for 5 minutes, or boil in salted water for 6 minutes, just until firm-tender.**

Combine the carrots, maple glaze, salt, pepper and parsley.  Serve immediately.  If you prefer serving the carrots steaming hot, put them in a hot saucepan for a few minutes to heat the glaze through.

*I only removed the cinnamon stick, leaving the oranges in the glaze.  You can remove both if you prefer.

**The cooking time depends on the diameter of the carrots, the uniformity of the slices, and the size of your steamer insert.  I had to steam my carrots for about 12 minutes to get them "firm-tender."  Don't start the "carrot cooking timer" until the water is boiling, creating the steam for the steamer.  If you don't have a steamer and are boiling them, just test the tenderness of the carrots while cooking.  Mushy carrots are uber-gross in this recipe. 

From the Whole Foods Market Cookbook

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Sneaky Chicken Nuggets

I like Jessica Seinfield's cookbook, Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.  She employs a wide variety of stealthy tactics to get her kids to eat vegetables. 

These chicken nuggets have a hidden broccoli coating. My kids have no idea it exists and they gobble them right up. 

I love them because I can get the boys to eat something good for them without a war. 

Without gagging and vomiting.

Without tears and frustration.

And that makes for a much better day.

This is my modified version of her recipe. 

The nuggets freeze beautifully. To reheat, place frozen (cooked) nuggets on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 5-6 minutes, until sizzling.

Sneaky Chicken Nuggets
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 cup broccoli or spinach or sweet potato or beet puree*
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound chicken breast or chicken tenders, rinsed, dried, and cut into small, uniform chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt

1.  In a bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, paprika, garlic, and onion powder.  Pour onto large plate.

2.  In a second bowl, mix the vegetable puree and egg with a fork.  Set the bowl next to the breadcrumb mixture.

3.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Set the baking sheets next to the breadcrumb mixture, making a little assembly line on your counter.

4.  Sprinkle the chicken chunks with the salt.  Dip the chicken into the egg mixture and then toss them in the breadcrumbs until completely coated. Place the chicken nuggets on the parchment paper (without letting them touch).  (This step is rather messy.  Just make sure the kids are occupied for about 5 minutes so that you don't have to fling your messy hands around during this step.)

5.  Bake for 12 minutes.  (Cut into a piece to check it's cooked through.)  Serve warm.

*For this recipe, I used broccoli puree.  I steamed the florets from several crowns of broccoli and then put them in the food processor and added a little of the water I used while steaming, processing just until smooth.  You can also use a blender.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Oatmeal Molasses Cookies

A spicy fall treat. 

Oatmeal Molasses Cookies
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped dates or currants (optional)
2/3 cup nuts

1.  Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3-5 minutes).  Scrape down sides of bowl.  Add molasses and eggs, blending well.

2.  Whisk together flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and cardamom (if using).  Add to creamed mixture, mixing thouroughly.

3.  Stir in oatmeal, dates or currents (if using) and nuts.

4.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Drop dough by heaping teaspoons onto the paper.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes (the cookies are dark because of the molasses, so just keep an eye on them for do.  Cool on a wire rack.

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.

*Adapted from The Peach Tree Tea Room Cookbook

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette and Pear Spinach Salad

Have you ever read the ingredients of non-organic salad dressing?

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Xanthan Gum, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Monosodium Glutamate, Sulfites, Maltodextrin....

Eeewwww.  Seems like that kind of cancels out the benefit of eating a healthy salad...

Don't get me wrong:  I posted my Zesty Chicken recipe the other day which features regular-smegular salad dressing as a main ingredient.  It wasn't organic or even 100% natural.  In a perfect world, I'd buy everything organic and local and such.  But this isn't a perfect world, and sometimes we have to take what we can get. 

Or do we?

Do you know how easy it is to make salad dressing?

Neither did I.

Until the other day...

A friend gave me about 20 beautiful, perfectly ripe organic pears on Friday.  (She also gave me a large bag of organic yellow onions.  I made French Onion soup; I will post that deliciousness later...)  I've made a pear cobbler, baked pears, eaten them raw with goat cheese, etc.  But I also wanted to feature them in something savory and autumnal. 

Enter pear-spinach salad with maple balsamic vinaigrette. 

Now don't start giving me the stink eye because that sounds too fancy.

It was quite tasty, if I do say so myself.  Children were even consuming it.  Raw spinach + kids?  Now that's an equation worth pursuing!

Although present in this dressing, the maple syrup does not scream "THERE'S MAPLE SYRUP IN HERE!"  You can barely taste it.  Mostly it just calms down the obnoxious balsamic vinegar.  

I think I'll also try it as a marinade for chicken or pork.

Here's a little trick on how to make the pear slices pretty:  use a melon-baller to remove the seeds and core.

This series of photo taken by Chris  

Spinach Pear Salad with Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 4 shiny, happy people

Candied Almonds:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup almonds (or you can substitute pecans or walnuts)

Maple Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 of a small shallot, finely sliced into rings
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (or substitute grapeseed oil)
2 teaspoons maple syrup (or substitute honey)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 generous handfuls baby spinach leaves
1 pear, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved

To make the candied almonds, melt the butter in a skillet, stir in the brown sugar, then add the almonds.  Toss just to coat.  Set out a piece of waxed paper on a cookie sheet.  Spread the nuts on the waxed paper and allow to harden.  Set aside.

For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup.  Refrigerate until you're ready to prepare and serve the salad.

For the salad, toss the spinach leaves, the sliced pear, and the almonds.  Toss with dressing.  Serve to individual plates and top with cheese.  Serve immediately.


A variation from this recipe I found online: Tyler Florence/Food Network.