Cranberry Chia Smoothie and a Clean Slate

I’m kind of obsessed with New Year’s Resolutions, this year especially. Let me just say, I am relieved to be done with 2013.  It was really a mess. You know how life tends to go in cycles, with ups and downs, and it’s not always sunshine and flowers?  I thought about that often last year. It’s over though, thank god!

I know not everyone bothers with making resolutions and that they’re kind of made to be broken eventually, but I find it very clarifying to have a clean slate and the opportunity to kind of step back and evaluate what I would like to have happen for that year. I write ridiculously long lists of dreams, plans and ideas, knowing full well that I’m not going to do all of them at all, but usually I end up doing some of them, which is great.  I guess they’re not really “resolutions” in the traditional sense.  Intentions is probably a better word.  Past examples that worked out really well include: “start my own jam business” and “I think we should get 200 chickens.”cranberriesOne of the things I am focusing on right now, at least for the beginning of this year, is to take better care of myself. Meaning, if I’m trying to get my life really on track for where I want to be going, working every moment of every day and drinking 9,000 cups of coffee to get through it is a horrible way to make it happen.  Very little will end up getting accomplished, except being really exhausted and crazy.  It’s funny, because I totally know that already, but sometimes we just need learn things the really hard way, right? (Although… I might say that the thing about learning things the hard way is that the lesson is so painful that I personally will absolutely not be forgetting it any time in the near future). _MG_3970So. For the last few days I’ve been making smoothies for breakfast.  Some resolutions might be difficult to keep, but I think this one is pretty easy.  “Eat a real breakfast with things in it that are actually good for you.”  I’ll sheepishly admit that it’s pretty simple, not exactly rocket science, and I’ve known it for a long time, yet I decided to have coffee for breakfast for most of last year.smoothieHere’s to a happy and healthy 2014!

CRANBERRY CHIA SMOOTHIE

Makes: about 1 quart jar

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. almond milk
  • 2 tbs. chia seeds
  • 1 c. cranberries
  • 2 big kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 tangerine, peeled
  • optional: 1 tbs. honey or maple syrup

Combine the chia seeds and almond milk and let the seeds soak for atleast 30 minutes. (I do this step the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning).  Once the seeds are soaked, combine the almond milk/chia mixture with the other ingredients and blend until smooth.

Holiday DIY: Gold Leaf Pine Cones

So, I got this idea off of pinterest. I was looking at holiday craft projects and realized that I had been limiting my universe to glitter in the past, and that GOLD LEAF is amazing and I should put it on everything.  I mean, how could you not?gold leaf pine cone centerpieceTechnically, when you’re using gold or silver leaf, you’re supposed to use a special adhesive that is made by the same brand as the gold leaf, but I didn’t have any so I just used Mod Podge.  I bet you could use Elmer’s glue if you wanted and it wouldn’t matter.

Materials:

  • a few pine cones
  • gold leaf (FYI: not real gold leaf, that would cost a million dollars. Fake gold leaf is made of other metals and is much cheaper, about $10 for a big pack. You only need a few sheets for this project, depending on how many pine cones you do)
  • craft glue or gold leaf sizing
  • spray varnish or gold leaf sealer spray

The method is simple:

Paint the outer tips of the pine cones with a thin layer of glue.  Gently place the sheet of gold leaf over the pine cone and it will stick to the glue.  You may have to use a dry paint brush to gently ease the gold leaf onto all of the glued spots.  pine cones step 1Now, wait for the paint to dry.  Use the dry paint brush to brush away all of the excess gold leaf. Take the pine cones outside and spray them with varnish or gold leaf sealer.  You’re supposed to use the gold leaf sealer, but I already had a can of spray varnish for oil paintings which worked just fine. pine cones step 2Once they’re dry, bring them inside and use them for whatever decorating needs you might have.  I originally saw them used as garlands, but I decided that we needed a centerpiece instead, so I put them in a pottery bowl with some fir branches.  gold leaf pine cones DIYI think the finished product looks cute and festive, right? (But really just an excuse to bring more metallics into your life.)

Happy Holidays!

Baked Kale & Artichoke Dip

This dip is inspired by the spinach-artichoke dip that I think many people have probably had at some restaurant or another.   It’s not anything new or trendy but let’s pretend it is since I’m using kale instead of spinach. I was thinking about making it the other day and realized I didn’t see any recipes for it on the internet that looked very good.  Most involved a lot of mayonnaise.  Sorry, but no.  It is weird that the idea of baking a mayonaissey dip sounds disgusting to me? Cheese is for baking, not mayonaisse.  Melty cheese = amazing.  Melty mayo = um…. dino kale This dip would be perfectly at home on a holiday appetizer table and is best paired a sparkly cocktail or three.  It’s also great for convincing people who hate kale that they actually love kale (what vegetable isn’t delicious drowned in cheese?)kale and artichoke dipBAKED KALE AND ARTICHOKE DIP

Cook Time: 45 min.

Makes: a large batch, enough for 5-10 people depending on portion size

Ingredients:

  • 1 14 oz. can artichokes, roughly chopped
  • 1 c. chopped cooked kale leaves
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 + 1/4 c. shredded monterey jack cheese
  • 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If you have a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients except 1/4 c. of the monterey jack cheese in the bowl and mix for a minute or two to combine everything.  You can do it by hand, too, but you really need to make sure that the cream cheese is fully softened.  Transfer the dip to a small oven-safe dish, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese, and bake for 30 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil for the last 3-4 minutes to get the cheese on top properly brown and bubbly.  (Keep a close eye at this point…. things go from bubbly to black and burned really quickly).

Serve hot, with tortilla chips, pita chips or raw vegetables.

Queensland Blue Pumpkin Butter

I’m not always a fan of using the freezer for food preservation.  Maybe one day, if I have a chest freezer and some more space, but for now there’s just not enough room to really make much use of it.  Right now I use it for meat and fish, frozen bags of cooked greens, a few jars of pie filling and this pumpkin butter.

Pumpkin butter is epic.

Pumpkin butter deserves as much space in the freezer as it needs.  It is totally worth it.  If you’ve made pumpkin butter before, I’m probably preaching to the choir, but if you haven’t ….  you need to go get a pumpkin.  It’s like pumpkin pie in a jar.  I usually use it instead of plain pumpkin puree to make pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and pumpkin lattes that are about a million times better than anything from Starbucks. (Did you know that most “pumpkin spice lattes” are just lattes with nutmeg and cinnamon? There’s really no pumpkin involved in most of them.  Try something like this instead.)queensland blue pumpkinMaking this made me really think about how ridiculous it is to measure out  specific amounts of ingredients for recipes since no two vegetables taste exactly the same.  With the wide range of varieties available from seed catalogues and at farmers markets, it makes so much more sense to learn the general method for a recipe, taste it as you go and adjust accordingly.   Last fall, I made pumpkin butter with sugar pie pumpkins and it took about four times as long to reduce down to the correct thickness and had a stringy, mushy texture that needed a lot of pureeing and reducing.   Not only did this year’s batch cook much faster since the flesh of this variety is very firm and dry, but the pumpkins also had so much flavor on their own that I really didn’t need to do much of anything to get the rich, luscious pumpkin taste that the finished product should have.

My favorite winter squash varieties have very firm, dry flesh that is dark yellow or orange, very flavorful and great for both savory and sweet recipes.  Buttercup, kabocha, jarradhale, and queensland blue are my current standbys, but if you look at winter squash section of the Baker Creek Seed catalogue, you’ll see there are about another ninety varieties and by no means have I tried them all. pumpkin butterHere’s the deal:  this is an easy recipe because it’s just going in the freezer.  You might find some pumpkin butter recipes in older cookbooks that say it’s safe for water bath canning, but it’s a lies.  I guess the USDA used to say it was okay but changed their minds.  The current guidelines say that pumpkin butter isn’t safe for water bath canning OR pressure canning.   (Did you really catch that if you’re skimming this?)

PUMPKIN BUTTER IS NEVER SAFE FOR CANNING. NOT IN A WATER BATH AND NOT IN A PRESSURE CANNER EITHER.

As much as I love to question authority, I’m not a scientist so I’m just going to follow the rules.  Marisa from Food In Jars has a thorough explanation over on her website here.  If you don’t have a freezer and are desperate for something that can go in a jar, SB Canning has a recipe for faux pumpkin butter that’s safe for water bath canning.

Step 1: Roast a pumpkin

To do this, poke a couple holes in it with a knife or a toothpick.  Put it on a cookie sheet. Put it in the oven at 350 degrees.  (You’ll know it’s cooked when a knife slides into the flesh easily – OR- if you press on the skin with your finger and it feels soft and gives to pressure – OR – you see little bubbles of caramelized sugar coming out of those holes you poked earlier.  Or all of those things. Maybe that’s obvious, but at my first kitchen job, it took me about three months to get the hang of properly baking potatoes.  Just so they were cooked through, like a normal baked potato, and not raw in the middle. Don’t make fun of me, it’s true.)

Step 2:

Wait for the pumpkin to cool off.  Then cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and set them aside for other projects.  The cooked flesh should come apart from the skin pretty easily at this point.  Put the flesh into a large, nonreactive pot and discard the skin.

Step 3:

Add the seasonings, puree, and cook on low heat until the mixture has thickened.  This variety of pumpkin is going to make a puree that’s already quite thick, so it won’t take all that long, about 45 minutes. Since this flesh is so dry, I found that it worked well to use a cup or two of apple juice as part of the sweetener.  It enhances the flavor and adds enough liquid to make it possible to puree everything with an immersion blender.

Ingredients to add:

  • apple or pear juice
  • brown sugar, honey or molasses
  • white sugar to taste
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, fresh, powdered or candied ginger, cardamom, whatever you want really…

I added apple juice, molasses, white sugar and some cinnamon and cooked the puree for another hour on very low heat, stirring it more often as it got really thick.   It ended up tasting perfect, just like eating pumpkin pie.  If you’re unsure about the seasonings, just add a little at a time and keep tasting it.  I added more white sugar than I originally thought I’d need, but if you just keep adding a little and tasting it eventually the flavors will lock in just right and really sing.  At this point, you should step away and stop messing with it or the everything can get muddled and weird.

Step 4:

Transfer the pumpkin butter to tupperware or jars and store in the freezer. Remember to leave about 3/4″ headspace on your jars and not to screw the lids down too tight or they’ll crack as they freeze solid.  pumpkin pieDON’T FORGET: Now that you have pumpkin butter made, you can whip up a pumpkin pie in about three minutes. The instructions are in this post from last year. 

Quick Beef Stroganoff

Earlier this week, the San Francisco chronicle posted an article that claimed that it’s hard to find fresh, affordable food in Mendocino County. It was a ridiculous article, written by someone who ignored all of the local farmers markets which are filled with … um….. fresh, affordable food.  The girls at Eat Mendocino have already written an excellent response to the article, explaining why the Chronicle was completely wrong, so I won’t rehash what they’ve already written.  Their whole conversation made me want to share this beef stroganoff recipe with you.

This whole blog is about cooking with fresh, local, affordable foods, but a lot of the time I make the recipes affordable by making them vegetarian, since a lot of locally sourced meats can be prohibitively expensive. I love eating all this hippie crunchy food, but sometimes it’s nice to have something a little bit more… meat and potatoes.  Maybe you’re cooking for picky eaters, maybe it’s cold out an you want some comfort food, maybe you’ve been slaving away all day in the garden and you’re craving something with protein and carbs. Whatever the occasion, this beef stroganoff is delicious.  Since this recipe makes a flavorful sauce to serve over mashed potatoes or noodles, you really only need a pound of meat to make a big pot of food.  Also, it cooks up in a flash. Also it’s cheap. It’s easily adaptable to different ingredients.  The leftovers (if there are any) make a great lunch the next day. beef stroganoffOh, and I realized after I started writing about this…. it’s basically just a homemade version of hamburger helper in the stroganoff flavor.  Because we like eating classy stuff like that.  beef stroganoff 2There are several ways you can adapt this recipe.  First, the meat: the cut doesn’t really matter. You can use ground beef, which is almost always one of the cheapest meats at the farmers market.  If you use a steak that’s more on the tender side (sirloin, ribeye, strip) keep the cooking time to 30 minutes.  If you want to use stew meat, an add extra cup of stock to the recipe and cook it for an extra hour or more. You can substitute mushrooms for the beef if you want something vegetarian. You can add all kinds of vegetables while you’re browning the beef: shallots, leeks, onions, some chopped swiss chard, peas, mushrooms. Whatever looks good at the farmers market that week will be great.

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. sirloin steak, sliced into thin strips, or 1 lb. ground beef
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • salt and pepper
  • a big splash of cognac or brandy, if you have it on hand
  • 2 c. beef or vegetable stock
  • 16 oz. sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • a few sprigs of fresh tarragon (or parsley is fine too)
  • optional add-ins: sliced mushrooms, sliced shallots, peas, chopped spinach, etc.
  • for serving: buttered mashed potatoes or egg noodles

Heat the butter in a large skillet.  Add the steak and garlic and cook for a few minutes on medium-high heat to brown the steak.  (If you want to add extra vegetables, now’s the time).  Season everything with salt and pepper.  Once the steak is browned, add the whole wheat flour and saute everything for another minute or two. Deglaze the pan with a splash of cognac, if you have it.  (If you don’t, it will taste good without it.  Just deglaze the pan with the stock instead). Add the beef stock, sour cream, paprika and tarragon and stir everything together. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.  Serve over buttered egg noodles or mashed potatoes.  We like having this dish with a big green salad or sauteed green beans.

How To Pull Off Your Own DIY Wedding, Pt 2: The Food!

When I saw all the boring menus offered on most wedding catering websites, we immediately decided just to cater the whole thing ourselves.  Other blogs talk about self-catering your wedding like it’s an insanely difficult task, along the lines of building a rocket ship or performing open-heart surgery, but it’s really not hard at all if you plan it right.  For anyone that enjoys cooking and is having a smallish wedding, I think it’s perfectly feasible. The key to doing this successfully is that you don’t want to actually cook anything on your wedding day.  I made virtually everything in advance and then just had my mom keep an eye on the oven while it all reheated. (We were outside trying to see if the dogs would sit still for wedding portraits.  They wouldn’t). wedding dog portraitIf you decide to go the self-catering route, there are a few things that you need to think about while you’re menu planning:

1. Does the dish hold well in the refrigerator for a day or two?

It’s perfectly fine to cook things several days in advance from a food safety standpoint, but will you be sacrificing texture or flavor? Steamed rice will dry out in the fridge, spaghetti is basically impossible to reheat without a microwave, mashed potatoes turn into one solid lump.  It’s better to think more along the lines of casseroles, braises, stews, curries and the like.  You can always do a test batch in the months leading up to the wedding and then see how it lasts in the fridge. Since we were cooking for such a large range of diets for our wedding day, we decided to go italian with everything. It tends to be a good common ground that will make everyone happy, from carnivores to vegans.

2. Do you have enough fridge space?

We were cooking for 25 people. We have a pretty average sized fridge and it was totally full of saran wrapped casserole dishes.  We couldn’t have fit one more thing if we tried.  Beverages were out in the garage and in coolers to stay cold. By this logic, I would estimate 1 refrigerator per 25 people. (You definitely don’t want to make a bunch of food and then realize you don’t have anywhere to store it…)

3. Remember food safety.

Remember to properly refrigerate the food you cook in advance. Make sure to reheat it thoroughly on the day of the event. When you’re cooking in the days leading up to the event, make sure you arrange your fridge properly and put vegetables and cooked food higher up than raw meats, which should be at the bottom of the fridge (so you don’t end up getting chicken juice getting on your raw vegan appetizers).

4. Menu Planning:

As with all local cooking, it’s not a good idea to get too set on a specific thing.  I knew what I had in the pantry and the garden, so I had some ideas, but I also shopped at the farmers market the week before the cooking.

With all that in mind, here’s the menu we figured out, doing our best to highlight the local foods we have available in February:

Friday Dinner:

We didn’t bother with a rehearsal or a rehearsal dinner, but for Friday night, when we had some friends over to help set up the space for the ceremony the next day, we had big pots of vegan curries that are simple to make and can hold on low for hours and hours.

 

and for Saturday, the wedding day:

Breakfast, self-serve for all of the guests that stayed with us:

Appetizers:

  • Vegan Summer Rolls stuffed with local greens, served with Peanut Sauce
  • Crab Rangoon, made with local dungennes crab and spring onions
  • Local Cheese Plate

Dinner:

  • Lasagna with beef & pork ragu, made with our home canned tomato sauce
  • Stuffed shells with local chard, ricotta custard and black pepper chevre from my friends at Shamrock Artisan Cheese, topped with our tomato sauce.
  • Vegan Polenta Casserole with Mushroom Ragu (The link takes to to a similar recipe with a different filling. Same idea though).
  • Garden Salad with greens from Floodgate Farms and Lovin’ Mama Farms

Dessert:

  • Vegan Chocolate Cake with Vegan Buttercream Frosting

 

Since I can’t write a post this long and not share a recipe, I should probably tell you about my summer rolls and peanut sauce…. summer rolls with peanut sauceThis is such a great appetizer; they always make people super happy and taste great.  Plus, since it’s really mostly salad, your guests don’t end up eating a bunch of rich food right off the bad (….. because that means food comas and food comas don’t really make for a fun party).  Summer rolls are super labor intensive, but they can be made a day in advance as long as you cover each layer thoroughly with saran wrap.   My new sister-in-law and I rolled about 100 of them while we hung out together the day before the wedding and it really went pretty quick.

The Kitchn has an excellent post about wrapping summer rolls, so I’m not going to bother re-photographing everything they already did….

For the peanut sauce, I use an approximation of the following recipe. (I wanted to tell you an exact version, but I burned out the motor in my blender, so now I just have to estimate.  I’ve made it so many times that this should be really close, though.)

Peanut Sauce

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. freshly ground peanut butter, usually found in the bulk-food section of the grocery store
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2″ of peeled ginger root, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 or 3 hot peppers, depending on your heat preference (dried or fresh will both work)
  • 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1  c. orange juice
  • 2 tbs. soy sauce

Combine everything but the peanut butter in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add the peanut butter and blend again.* If the sauce is too thick for dipping, add some orange juice.  If it’s too thin and watery, add some more peanut butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  If it tastes too spicy, add some honey or sugar.  You can serve this immediately but it will hold in the fridge for several days.

*If you put in the peanut butter first, you’ll burn out motor in the blender.

Note: Next time I make peanut sauce, I’ll check the amounts on this recipe, but if someone else makes it first, please let me know how it goes.

 

How to Pull Off Your Own DIY Wedding, Pt. 1: Flowers

I just got married on Saturday. I’m pretty excited about it. first dance

Jason and I had been engaged for so many years that I can’t actually remember how long it’s been.  We’ve been together for ten years in May, and we had finally decided to set a date this last December.*  Neither of us was interested in a traditional big wedding, and we’ll all about DIY over here, so we pretty much did everything ourselves instead of hiring other people.

Over the next few weeks (meaning, when I have time to write everything), I’m going to share a series of posts about the various elements of the wedding, what we did, and how to plan it all in advance so that you don’t actually have to work on your wedding day.  The only thing I should really mention, though, is that we had such a tiny wedding that I know this information won’t really apply to a lot of couples who are having hundred(s) of people show up for their wedding.

For this post, I want to tell you about what we did for the flowers, with more to follow about the rest of the decor, our sweet little vegan wedding cake, how to self-cater everything in advance for a small group.  bridal bouquetWe got almost all of the food from local farms, but unfortunately there aren’t many local flowers to be had in Mendocino County during February.  Our farm just has a few random calendula blooms, nothing that you could turn into a bridal bouquet.  If it were the summertime, I would have absolutely just grown my own.  True, if I had planned in advance, I could have forced some bulbs in the greenhouse or something. I got my wedding dress four days before the wedding, though, so obviously growing my own flowers was just not in the cards for this.  The next best thing? The San Francisco Flower Mart. It’s a huge wholesale market for flowers that’s open to florists in the early morning hours, but then opens to the public at 10:00 a.m. The flowers are incredibly fresh, as local as I think is reasonable to expect in February, and the selection is fantastic.  Oh, and it’s dirt cheap. And there’s a parking lot right at the building. (You have to pay, but it’s only a couple bucks). bridal bouquetI live two hours away from San Francisco, out in the sticks, and I think it was totally worth the drive to go down and get a couple hundred bucks worth of flowers for bouquets and to decorate the house.   If you’re getting married, live nearish to SF, and want to arrange your own flowers, this is absolutely the route to take. During the summers, I would also suggest local farmers markets, but you probably knew I would say that.

Remember, if you’re shopping for flowers at a market like this, it helps to bring a couple big buckets with water in them so that you can keep the flowers fresh while you drive them back home.  If you get really fresh flowers, they’ll probably last about a week if you keep them in plenty of water and in a cool space.

As far as making your arrangements look nice, it really is up to you. I like a combination of lots of shapes, sizes and colors, but sometimes a bunch of all one variety can look beautiful too. You have to just keep a really open mind when you’re shopping and pick out things that you think look pretty. _MG_2685The day before the wedding, my sisters and one of my girlfriends put together bouquets and decorated the house.  Obviously, they were all in mason jars, (which is potentially an overused trend, but when you make jam for a living and have shelves and shelves filled with jars, it certainly seems like an obvious choice).  As stereotypical as it was for a bunch of girls to sit around playing with flowers, I don’t care, because it was awesome. Of course, it might not be right for all brides, but I could never imagine paying someone else to sit and arrange flowers for me. wedding flowers

So, that was the simplest bit of information to tell you about…. I have a bunch of really great recipes that I can’t wait to share for all the delicious food we made.  I need to go sleep some more, though, since apparently I’m still hungover, two days later.

*If you have a long engagement and then randomly decide to get married, everyone is going to think you’re pregnant. True story. FYI: I’m not pregnant.

My Freezer Is A Wall Of Jalapenos: How To Preserve Hot Peppers, Pt.2

Right before the frost this past year, I stashed a lot of hot peppers in my freezer. I already wrote this post about preserving peppers, which included the whole idea of just stashing them in the freezer for later in the winter instead of rushing to deal with all of them right away.  Since “later in the winter” is officially here, I’m trying to deal with this ridiculous wall of peppers when I open the freezer door, and I thought I’d share a couple of the recipes that I’m making.  chilis!Before you say it, I know, hot pepper jelly is always my absolute favorite idea for using chili peppers, but I already have enough hot pepper jelly to last through several apocalypses. And since people always ask for a good recipe for hot pepper jelly, here’s my tip: I’ve tried almost all of them, and in the end I decided my favorite is just the recipe in the sure-gel box.  The high sugar one. It turns out awesome.

So, if you’ve already made enough hot pepper jelly to satisfy the cravings of your friends, relatives, and hungry neighbors, here are a few more ideas:

Escabeche Vegetables, from Canning For A New Generation, by Liana Krisoff-

I’ve had pickles similar to these in lots of taquerias in San Francisco. They’re addictive, with the kind of spicy heat that makes you almost want to stop eating them, but they’re so good you just have to have one more, even though you’re starting to sweat.  They’re perfect with a beer and a burrito, and I’m so excited to have my own jars in the pantry now.

escabeche vegetables

Fermented Sriracha, from The Hungry Tigress

I haven’t actually tasted it yet since the peppers are still fermenting on the windowsill, but I’m pretty sure I’m gonna end up doing a monster batch once I taste this first one (because sriracha is inherently delicious and there’s no way one small batch is gonna do the trick).

fermenting chilis

Candied Jalapenos, seen in many places around the internet, but I used this recipe from Foodie with Family:

I’ve never tried these before, but I’ve heard people go absolutely crazy about them, and I can’t wait to see how they taste.

candied jalapenos

Jalapeno Bread and Butter Pickles, from Simply Recipes:

I’m really excited for these, because I generally like bread and butter anything.  I can hear them screaming out to get put on top of a burger, fresh off the grill, or maybe diced and put in egg salad if you wanted to get really crazy.

jalapeno bread and butter pickles

I haven’t actually tried any of these yet since pickles need a few days to mellow out after you make them, but I’ll report back when I do.  Can you think of any recipes that I’m missing? If you have something you love to make, please leave a link in the comments. I still have ten huge bags of jalapenos in my freezer and I really need to get them outta there!

Winter Vegetable & Lentil Stew

I think the easiest way to make something good out of whatever vegetables you have on hand is to make soup.  And it’s great, because I really like soup. I like cooking it. I like eating it. I like that you can make a big pot and put the leftovers in the fridge and have lunches for days. I do a fair amount of professional cooking, and soups and stews are the most obvious choices when I need to feed a mixed group of carnivores-vegetarians-vegans-gluten free – whatevers. It’s pretty simple just to make a big pot of veggie stew, maybe serve it with a green salad and a grain.

Really, one of the main things I like about soup is that its a huge pot of vegetables, so when I have a bowl, I can pat myself on the back for eating healthy things and not Doritos.

These were the vegetables I decided to turn into soup today: winter vegetablesSomething about the sweet, nutty flavor of the parsnips really made this recipe worth righting about here. It was delicious.

We had it for lunch, topped with some parmesan cheese, with a few slices of bread.   winter vegetable and lentil soup

Winter Vegetable and Lentil Stew

Cook Time: 2 hrs.

Makes: a big batch!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced in half, rinsed, and then sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 3 celery ribs, tops included, diced
  • 4 parsnips, diced
  • 1/2 sm. buttercup squash, peeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1 bunch of swiss chard, roughly chopped
  • 2 c. crushed tomatoes with juice
  • about 13 c. water or stock
  • 1 lb. lentils
  • salt and pepper
  • a splash of apple cider vinegar
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese, for serving

 

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot, on medium high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, leeks, parsnips, and buttercup squash.  Saute for about ten minutes, til the onions start looking translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients- the tomatoes, water, swiss chard (stems and all!) and lentils, and reduce heat to medium.  Simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add the cider vinegar and cayenne if you think it needs a little kick.  To serve, top with grated parmesan.

Chicken Tikka Masala, Because I Miss All the Restaurants In San Francisco

I am a country girl, through and through.  I love living wayyyy out in the sticks. I love it that if I want to wear my work boots with manure on them and dirty old jeans and carhartt jacket into town, no one looks at me funny.  My mud-covered pickup truck fits right in here. I love that I only have to brush my hair if I feel like it.  I can butcher a chicken but if you asked me for tips on applying eyeshadow I would be utterly clueless.sunny valley

BUT: boy oh boy oh boy, sometimes I really miss the days of living right in the middle of San Francisco, where I could walk just a few blocks and have my pick of some of the best (and cheapest) ethnic foods I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. Cities are awesome like that. One of my favorite spots was an Indian restaurant called Chutney, on Jones and O’Farrell.  When I’m in the city I make a beeline there and get the paneer tikka masala, saffron rice and garlic naan. It’s the stuff of dreams.

I like to be very self-reliant and DIY here in our homestead kitchen (remember last year’s Cook it! projects? we made our own pasta bread butter cheese and so much more), and one of the categories that I haven’t written about yet is: Cooking Exact Replicas Of My Favorite Restaurant Foods.  This is one of my favorite categories because I get to eat my favorite foods whenever the craving hits, all without ever having to change into real pants or figure out where I put my keys.

My most recent success story is this chicken tikka masala.chicken tikka masala

I won’t bother re-writing the full recipe, because it’s just from Serious Eats, but I want to add a few notes….

1. The recipe calls for a lot of lemon juice. You may have noticed that it’s winter and there’s tons of lemons hanging around on the trees these days. I made meyer lemon marmalade the other day, but I still have a big bowl of meyer lemons, so what better way to use them up than curry?meyer lemons

2. ….obviously…… this is the perfect recipe to make use of that epic stash of canned garden-fresh tomatoes from last summer.empty jar!

3. I was all excited about using my cast-iron grill pan to grill the yogurt-marinated chicken, but I promptly set off the fire alarm. So instead of actually grilling the chicken first, I just threw the raw pieces right into the tomato sauce.  I’m sure I was missing some charred flavor, but I also didn’t have to cook dinner in a cloud of smoke. It turned out totally delicious and didn’t really matter that I skipped this step.

4. To serve this properly, it’s best with steamed basmati rice and naan or chapatis, but since we’re lazy and had tortillas we just used those instead.