Thursday, November 27, 2008

thanksgiving recovery

Thanksgiving, the holiday of eating. It's no surprise that it has always been my favorite holiday. But because of J-Cat's surgery the other day and a difficult recovery, we've decided that a quiet Thanksgiving at home with the kitties would be the best for both of our psyches. It's been a long long long week...

But a Thanksgiving for 2 humans and 2 felines does not mean a couple of frozen turkey dinners. I'm doing my best to find that compromise between hitting all our favorites and not going overboard. So, here's the menu plan, and all of the new recipes will be posted in the coming days:

Roast Chicken with Lemons (Yeah, they don't make 3-lb turkeys. And, to be honest, neither of us really likes turkey anyway.)
Chicken Gravy
Classic Bread Stuffing
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Roasted Delicata Squash
Cranberry Cornbread
Fresh Cranberry Sauce with Golden Raisins
Nutmeg-Maple Cream Pie

What, is that too much for two?

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

on-set torture: squash & chickpea tajine

When you make food television, sometimes you sit around all day tortured by delicious aromas they you just CAN'T. EAT. YET. This recipe tops the list because not only did it take forever before all the shots were done, this incredibly aromatic dish was persistently gnawing at my senses, insisting that I would love anything that smelled like that. Cinnamon, cumin, garlic, onions, wafting, all over the studio, driving me crazy.

This recipe was also responsible for a rather exciting first day back on set, as Aida sliced her finger while chopping up some preserved lemon. I discovered that glopping on liquid bandage wasn't really going to work if it just kept bleeding and bleeding and the blood was diluting the liquid bandage. Then I discovered that the blood clotting spray in the first aid kit was a joke but might have made us giggly. Then I discovered that our EP Matt was strong and could possibly break Aida's finger while trying to apply pressure. Then I discovered that the tannic acid in a wet tea bag works as a natural coagulant. The more you know. Recipe after the jump:


1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, small dice
4 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick
1 pound butternut squash, large dice
3/4 pound red potatoes, large dice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
Pinch saffron threads
1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped
1 cup brined green olives (recommend: Cerignola)[note: I used Moroccan Oil-cured olives because they were pitted, cheaper, and Moroccan, which I thought was fitting]
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped, for garnish
Toasted slivered almonds, for garnish
Plain Greek yogurt, for garnish
Steamed couscous, for serving

1. Heat butter and olive oil in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan with a tightfitting lid over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until spices are aromatic and onions is just soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
2. Add squash and potatoes, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, stir to coat, and cook until just tender, about 3 minutes. Add broth, chickpeas, tomatoes and their juice, and saffron. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until squash is fork tender, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove from heat and stir in preserved lemon and olives. Serve over couscous garnished with cilantro, almonds, and yogurt.

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Poor J-Cat. Surgery on Monday.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

emergency cookies: white chocolate cherry chunkers

Oh my. What a week I've had. Such a week that I can't even remember when I made these cookies or how I had the energy or time. But it's a good thing I did, because it turns out that J-Cat is practically surviving on them. On Saturday night, my manchild of a boyfriend broke his upper arm skateboarding and now is pretty much unable to do anything. Between multiple visits to the hospital and the realization that I have to do quite a lot to help him (imagine all the things you can't do with only one arm) and a severe lack of sleep, I'm wondering if perhaps I baked these cookies in the middle of the night. Luckily, these hearty white chocolate cherry chunk cookies are full of oats and relatively low on sugar, so when I go to work and leave the gimp alone at home all day, he can easily eat these rather than try to get something off of a shelf or whatever.

The recipe comes from the new book The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread, with some minor modifications from me to reduce the sugar (I always do that, as I actually don't like really sweet desserts), and increase the fiber. I also made smaller cookies than the recipe suggests, so I have adjusted the cooking time to account for it. Amy's Bread is an incredible bakery that constantly strives to thwart all of my attempts to lose weight. It's right downstairs from my office. It's magical. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread
(Makes 36 small or 12 large cookies)

1 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup dried tart cherries
3/4 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar

1. Position one rack in the top third of the oven, one rack in the bottom third of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line the cookie sheets with baking parchment.

2. In a bowl, add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt and whisk together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and vanilla. In another large bowl, add the cherries and white chocolate and toss gently to combine.

3. In another bowl, using an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until light and fluffy, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. Gradually add the egg mixture until everything is well combined.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in stages. Mix only until everything is well combined, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl frequently. There should not be any pockets of dry flour left in the dough. Add the cherries and chocolate and mix again on low speed until everything is evenly distributed. If you're using a mixer that has beaters instead of a paddle, you may want to fold these last ingredients in by hand with a wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

5. Using a large soup spoon, a metal ice cream scoop, or your clean hands moistened with water, scoop out small balls of dough and place on lined baking sheet. Press down lightly to flatten them to a thickness of about 1 inch. They will spread a lot during baking. Bake the cookies for about 14 minutes, rotating the cookies halfway through the baking time. They should be golden brown and baked all the way to the center. They should be soft, but be careful not to underbake them or they'll be doughy and will fall apart easily.

6. Let cookies cool on the sheets for 5 minutes, then move them to a rack and cool completely before serving.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

another vat of goodness

Okay, maybe some of these vat dinners are getting repetitive. Rice, beans, greens, a touch of meat, how many variations of this have I made already? The thing is, this theme has countless variations, and somehow many of them are awesome. This time it was brown basmati rice, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and a bit of andouille. I went with the influence of southern ingredients and threw some dashes of tabasco in for a familiar bite. Recipe after the jump:


1 cup brown basmati rice
4 ounces andouille sausage, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch collard greens, cut into thin ribbons
1 15-oz can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp dried tarragon
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
a few splashes tabasco sauce, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium saucepot, combine rice with 2 cups water and bring to a strong boil. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes or until water is absorbed and rice is tender. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

In a large saute pan over medium heat, saute the sausage until browned and letting out fat. Add the onions and garlic and saute for a few minutes until onions are translucent. Add the collards and saute until wilted. Add the beans, tarragon, paprika, cayenne and tabasco sauce and saute until beans are heated through.

In a large bowl, combine the collards and beans with the rice and toss well. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

maple nut & pear scones

The aroma of these hearty scones baking on Sunday morning was intoxicating. My attempt at a healthy weekend breakfast was thwarted, however, by my inability to stop myself from eating FOUR of them. Then another for dessert. And another the next day. If you are craving the flavor of fall in an addictive, filling, not-too-sweet bread item, this is the scone for you. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Eating Well

1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup plus 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons chilled reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel), cut into small pieces (2 ounces)
2 tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces
¼ cup canola oil
1 cup diced peeled pears, preferably Bartlett (about 1 large)
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, divided
¾ cup low-fat buttermilk
1 teaspoon maple extract or vanilla extract
1 egg lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water for glaze

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or coat with cooking spray.

2. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, oats, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl; whisk to blend. Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, cut or rub cream cheese and butter into the dry ingredients. Add oil and toss with a fork to coat. Add pear and 1/4 cup nuts; toss to coat. Mix buttermilk and maple (or vanilla) extract in a measuring cup and add just enough to the dry ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the dough clumps together. (It will be sticky.)

3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times; do not overwork it. Divide the dough in half and pat each piece into a 7 1/2-inch circle. Cut each circle into 6 wedges and transfer to the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the egg glaze and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup nuts, pressing lightly. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar.

4. Bake the scones until golden and firm to the touch, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

sunday supper: pasta e lenticchie

Homey, filling, simple and tasty, all the makings of a perfect Sunday Supper on a chilly fall day. It's a one pot meal that results in a rich-tasting but ultimately extremely healthy dish. A very classic dish from the Campania region, it is often made using the odds and ends of leftover pasta, or pasta mista. I used capellini, broken into 2-inch pieces, so that it would cook quickly in the same pot as the lentils. I also used way more pasta than the recipe actually calls for because I am a carb freak, so the proportions were probably pretty different. No matter, it was delicious. Recipe after the jump:

Adapted from Naples at Table by Arthur Schwartz

6 cups water
3/4 cup lentils
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped canned plum tomatoes, with some juice
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
3/4 pound vermicelli or capellini, or small tubular pasta, or pasta mista
2 rounded tablespoons finely cut or snipped parsley
Optional: Extra-virgin olive oil and hot red pepper flakes or hot pepper oil for garnish

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lentils, and cook, covered over medium-high heat, until nearly but not entirely tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, the olive oil, the tomatoes, the salt, and the pepper. Reduce the heat, cover, and continue to simmer briskly for another 10 minutes, stirring a few times, or until the lentils are fully tender.

3. If using capellini, break it into 2- to 4-inch pieces and add them to the lentils. Cook, covered, at a steady simmer, stirring several times and scraping the bottom of the pot when you do. Cook until the pasta is just done, stirring more frequently as it gets closer to that point. If using a small tubular pasta or pasta mista, cook the pasta at least halfway in plenty of salted boiling water. Drain the pasta, add it to the lentils, and simmer to finish cooking the pasta.

4. When either pasta is cooked to taste, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley, cover the pot, and let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

5. Serve hot, passing hot pepper oil or the best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling on top.

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