Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recipe Slumps

100 POSTS!!!!

We celebrated that milestone!

It's hard to believe that Elizabeth and I really have that many dinner ideas without repetition!

It is fun to share recipes since it is so easy to get into a rut....and then not even able to get out of the rut and figure out what is for dinner. No matter how organized and adventurous I am I still get into a slump on occasion. Either I get so tired of being creative with dinner food....or I don't feel like I have 10 minutes or so to think ahead.

I would love to hear what other people do when they find themselves in a slump. I periodically go through these phases where I just don't know what to make for dinner. It's been inspirational to blog about recipes and food, so I have to dig a little deeper in my recipe box or be a bit more adventurous when these hit.

I have found friends are a great source of recipes and have gotten my through recipe slumps. Elizabeth has gotten me out of a few recipe funks with some recipes and ideas.

The internet has been helpful.

Getting the CSA box helps my creativity as well.

Library cookbooks often can provide inspiration for me.

Friends have recipes to share,

What do you do?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grandma Fiorenza's soup

I have seen a version of this called Italian Wedding Soup...but...in our house...this is known as Grandma Fiorenza's soup. Even after she was a great grandma and was called GG the name of the soup remained. My grandma didn't have much variety in what she cooked...and she really didn't like vegetables too much. In fact, when she would come to visit me she would bring a can of spam and a couple slices of white bread in her purse so she wouldn't have to eat something like...hmmmm....vegetable and shrimp pasta with fresh dill from the New Basics Cookbook. There wasn't much a person could say to her about this...she was healthy into her 90s, so her diet worked for her, obviously. BUT, something she enjoyed eating and making was this soup. I remember going to her house and having sugo one night with her homemade meatballs (the large meatballs were served with that) and Italian sausage and this soup (with the small meatballs) the other night. Both nights were good meals!!

I make this soup exactly as I'm blogging about it. There may be some shortcuts, like I'm not really sure why the meatballs aren't cooked directly in the soup. I can't vary it...but you may want to try. I just need to make this so it tastes exactly like my Grandma (and my mom) make it. I don't think that anyone should substitute any other kind of cheese for the imported Pecorino Romano.

I'm not a big beef eater, but there are a handful of recipes I don't think I could ever give up that contain beef. This is one of them!

My mom would make this for us if we were getting colds. I guess it was the Italian version of chicken soup.

Our Sendik's store didn't have acini de pepe pasta, the really tiny pearls of pasta. I got stars instead. But, I will have to run to an Italian grocery store, like Glorioso's, and get a stash of the really tiny pasta. For me, tiny pasta is part of this soup.

Here it is:
1 or 2 meaty beef shanks
1 large (28 oz) undrained whole tomatoes
carrots/celery (amount varies....I used 4 large carrots and 4 stalks celery), cut into 4 inch to 6 inch long pieces
onions, small preferred (I used 4)
potatoes, quartered or halved (I used 4)
Cover beef shanks with water in soup kettle. Let it simmer until the meat is tender (about an hour). Skim off foam if necessary.
Add 1 can undrained tomatoes. Add potatoes, celery, carrots (as many as you want). Cook (not boiling) until potatoes are almost cooked through.

Then add onions and cook until tender.
I used a couple cans of beef broth as well.

You can mix meatballs at any time during this process.
1 lb grd chuck
Italian seasonings, especially parsley(dried)
2 eggs
bread crumbs...about 1/4 c or as needed to form balls
Pecorino romano cheese (about 1/4 c)
Mix and form meatballs. Add meatballs to a pot of boiling water. After the meatballs are cooked, add them to the soup broth.
acini de pepe pasta (tiny pasta)
Cook in boiling water in another pan for approx. 5 minutes. Drain. Add soup broth to pasta through a strainer to keep it from sticking together.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Add some pasta and top with grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Pull some vegetables and meatballs out of the soup in put in large serving bowl and let everyone take the vegetables they want. Top each serving bowl with additional Pecorino Romano and some salt and pepper. I don't usually use much salt and pepper at the table but this soup needs it.

Eleanor is not a very big tomato fan, but she doesn't like this if I omit the tomatoes. I tried making the meatballs with ground turkey one time (since that's what I had in the freezer), and that got a thumbs down. Maybe your family will work with substitutions on this recipe, we don't!

There really isn't too much time involved in making this soup. The time it takes to prepare is while it is on the stove, so you do have to be home but can be doing other things for most of the time. I will make this (including the meatballs) before swim practice and come home and just cook the pasta and warm the broth and vegetables.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving...what's on the menu?

This year I got to cook Thanksgiving dinner. For a family that usually ends up driving on the holiday, this was really exciting. My parents came and the three of us were here, so it was a small group, but very nice.

I found it a bit disappointing to cook since tradition dictates most of the menu. I did find a few places to be creative though. I will post the pumpkin cheesecake I made and the smoked turkey that Paul made, but I'll give you some other ideas from the menu as well.

I had to have mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, so neither offered too much originality. I just baked the sweet potatoes, scooped the meat out of them and combined with a couple tablespoons of butter and salt and pepper, baked the skins for a bit, and put the mixture back in the skins. I had this done early and just held the sweet potatoes that way and baked them 1/2 hour or so before dinner. Topped them with some craisins and served.

I did find a new recipe for roasted vegetables since I got the last CSA box of the season the night before. It came with two very large rutabagas, so I had to find a way to incorporate at least one of them in a way other than my usual idea (which is to boil it with the potatoes and mash all together). I found the recipe on epicurious for roasted vegetables, so follow the link; however, I made this with rutabaga and carrots since I didn't have the other vegetables and added a bit of leeks since they came in the box also.

I made up a recipe for cranberry chutney. I sauteed some onion and garlic and added some ginger root and cranberries. I added a cup or so of sugar and some orange zest and orange juice. It really needed some sugar at this point, so I added some craisins and 1/4 c or so of sugar. Then another 1/4 c of sugar. Then another 1/4 c sugar. I also added some coriander seeds and a cup or so of vinegar. I think it will be a good addition to sandwiches this week and was good on the Thanksgiving table.

Sweet potato biscuits seemed like a good addition; however, I made them with canned pumpkin since I didn't use the entire can for the pumpkin marble cheesecake.

We had a green salad with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing. We got a beautiful head of lettuce in the last box. So nice to have something so green and fresh with the meal.

Stuffing....ahem...dressing (since it didn't stuff the turkey) that was a recipe that I found on the internet. I made the bread for the bread cubes from the artisan bread recipe. I could have used bread from the store, but it is so easy to make I went this route instead.

Our family's traditional cranberry and apple salad was brought by my mom.

So many things to be thankful for....in addition to a beautiful harvest meal.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Pumpkin Pie

 On this Thanksgiving morning, I thought it appropriate to blog about one of the dishes most of us will eat later on today. This recipe for pumpkin pie is from my mother...growing up we had it at Thanksgiving and Christmas and we fought over the leftovers. My father usually made everything else on the holidays, but the pie was always made by mom. She didn't go to the trouble of making a crust, she used a Pet-Ritz frozen crust. Today, I follow the same tradition, but use a Pillsbury or store brand rolled crust, I find them tastier and more tender than Pet-Ritz.

1 16 ounce can pumpkin(not pumpkin pie filling)
1 13 ounce can evaporated milk
2 eggs
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, allspice, cloves and salt
1 9 inch pie crust

Mix all the ingredients and pour into prepared pie crust. Bake at 425°F for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 375°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The pie is cooked when just the center(about a 3 inch circle in the center) is still a little jiggly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Aunt Liz's Chicken Spaghetti Casserole

This casserole is commonly called "gray chicken" at my house. While this title is not very appealing, I have to admit, the first time I made this, it did look very gray, and thus the name. I found this in a cooking light magazine, but is is available at myrecipes.com, here is the link.

I have made changes to this over the years. I found that using all cream of mushroom soup made the chicken unappealingly gray and the flavors were dull. I now use one can of regular cream of mushroom soup and one can of cream of mushroom soup with roasted garlic. I also use whole wheat pasta which is hard to detect with the sauce. The final note is that this says you can make 2 casseroles, about 4 servings each. I usually make one casserole and have some leftovers...I have never been able to get 2 full meals out of this recipe.


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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fiesta Taco Lasagna

Is it a dip or is it a main dish?
It's hard to tell when eating this....it's just a bit too good.

My friend, Meghan, made this when we were visiting her. The only changes I have made is that I use ground turkey and cut back a tiny bit on the Monterey Jack cheese by instead using 1 c. or so of cheddar. Oh, and I used about 8 oz frozen corn instead of the can of corn. I think that's it...it's good.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Mac and Cheese

 Through the years I have tried to make homemade mac and cheese but my kids always found the sauce too grainy. After the success of Ina Garten's chocolate ganache cupcakes(see post on 10/19/2010 ) I decided I would try her recipe since she claimed it always comes out creamy!

I have made this twice, the last time was for a Friday night of a swim meet weekend. Carbs were needed as was a meal that could be eaten at any time in the evening. My daughter actually took her dinner to the meet and ate it before a big race...she swam well so maybe it helped :)

Anyway, here is the recipe...Ina Garten's Mac and Cheese

Please note, for my version, I didn't use the tomatoes or the bread crumb topping. Also, it is important to use good quality cheeses, but you can vary them. The first time I used the recommended amount of Gruyere but the cheddar portion was actually part cheddar and part colby/jack. The second time I tried to bury some low-fat cheese in the recipe and the sauce did come out a bit grainy...

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Saturday, November 20, 2010

Greek Pizza

Recently I made this the night before an athletic event...for that extra boost of carbs.

I cut potatoes into cubes and put them in a pan with some olive oil (a couple tablespoons) and some Penzeys Greek seasoning. I roasted them at 450 degrees for an hour or so (OK, I took the dog for a walk while they were in the oven) and stirred them occasionally. It took about an hour to get nicely browned.

I made pizza crust (but purchased crust could be used) using the recipe out of the book mentioned in the post from 8/1.

I topped the crust with the potatoes, roasted red peppers, feta cheese, and some sun dried tomatoes. The jar of tomatoes I used was a huge one from the warehouse club...they are delicious.

The idea for potato pizza came from my friend, Nora. Usually I par boil the potatoes and then saute chopped onions and the cubed potatoes. I'll often throw in some fresh herbs too or some bell peppers. Really, just about anything that goes together and sounds good. The mixture could be topped with bleu cheese, cooked bacon, Canadian bacon, cheddar, chipotle peppers etc.

Thanks to Nora for a good idea!

Friday, November 19, 2010


 When we were living in France, we had quiche frequently. Meat is extremely expensive in Europe and the cuts are different as well, so we rarely ate red meat. The one Christmas we stayed in France and family visited us, I paid close to $100 for a roast for Christmas dinner, and that was in 1994! Quiche can be made with just about anything and it is often made with "remnants" from the refrigerator. It is also packed with inexpensive protein from the eggs. Today I have about 1/2 lb of bacon that needs to be eaten, so I will build my quiche around that. I also have some cooked greens(I think it is kale) in the freezer, so I will use that as well. I always use a rolled, ready made pie crust, such as Pillsbury, for my quiche.  I also find the store brands are just as good and less expensive. They store well in the freezer, so I always have them on hand.

1/2 lb bacon, chopped
1 small onion (about 1/2 cup diced)
1 cup cooked spinach or other green(frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry works well)
1 cup shredded cheese, I usually use swiss or cheddar
6-8 eggs (depends on the depth of your pie plate)
1/2-1 cup milk
1/2 t nutmeg
Salt and Pepper

Cook bacon...drain on paper towel and drain off most of the fat. Add onion to the remaining bacon fat and sauté until transluscent. Place pie crust in the pie plate and add bacon, onion and greens. Sprinkle with grated cheese. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Pour over the ingredients in the pie plate. Bake at 400°F for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until golden brown and set.

I usually serve this with a green salad and fresh bread...in the summer it is usually a fruit salad. This is also a great leftover for the lunchbox.

One final note...I accidentally bought low-fat cheddar cheese slices...I used this cheese in the quiche. Just as I buried the squash in the "pumpkin" pancakes, I used up some less desirable cheese in the quiche and I avoided wasting it!

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lemon Squares

A version of lemon squares is a violin camp favorite. Violin camp, besides being about the violin, is all about tradition. Having our friend Carol make these for the week is part of the tradition...one I hope continues for a long time!

Recently I came across this version which is a bit lower fat than the original. I don't think it gives away too many of the other good qualities with this dessert and it does make it seem OK to make it other than just having hers once a year.

The picture is made with lime juice and lime zest instead of lemon because I bought a large bag of limes at the warehouse club and needed to use them. They are so much cheaper there..and I did need them for some recipes...and we have used them in drinking water. I still had a few left (fortunately) so I made these.

Maybe desserts don't really belong on a blog about getting dinner on the table, but I'm thinking of the dessert recipes as a "bonus". They're being posted on days when I don't have anything else to post, so...that's my story!

Here's the bonus recipe of the week:
1 c. flour
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c oats
3 T. butter
Combine ingredients with a pastry blender. Press into a sprayed 8 inch baking dish and bake 10 minutes in an oven that was reheated to 350 degrees.

While the base is baking make the topping:
1 egg
1 egg white
1 c sugar
3 T. flour
1/4 t baking powder
juice of one lime and some lime zest.
Whisk all ingredients together and pour over baked base.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool.
Top with powdered sugar or with powdered sugar mixed with lime juice.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Pumpkin" Pancakes

 The end of the CSA season brought a lot of winter squash. Like Karen, I make sure I process any vegetables that may go bad and freeze them for use later. I still had some squash left over from the squash purée I made when I was making butternut squash ravioli (see post 11/2/2010), so I decided I would try to incorporate some into pancakes. Of course, I couldn't call them squash pancakes, my kids never would have eaten them, so I am calling them pumpkin pancakes! I adapted my favorite multi-grain pancake recipe for these (see post 7/8/2010).


1 cup flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat flour(grind old fashioned rolled oats in coffee grinder or food processor)
1/2 c rolled oats or quick oats
4 T brown sugar
4 T corn meal
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c plain greek yogurt(regular plain yogurt is fine as well)
1 cup pumpkin or squash purée
1 cup milk(may need more to thin batter if using greek yogurt)
2 eggs
2 T oil

Combine dry ingredients; Combine wet ingredients and then add them to dry ingredients. Make pancakes!

Our family likes pancakes plain, hot off the griddle, but these would be lovely with maple syrup and pecans!

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Shredded Chicken

A friend brought this to us when we were remodeling the kitchen. She got the recipe from her sister and adapted it a bit...now I've changed it. Sometimes I wonder if we have gone full circle and it is now back to the original!

I have never served this to anyone and not had them ask for the recipe! It's just that good. Since we're all so busy in the evenings it's nice to have some recipes that work for the whole family and everyone can scoop their dinner out of the crockpot when they get home. Another bonus of this recipe is that the end product freezes well. So, if you have any left at the end of the evening, you have a meal for another time.

1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c mustard
2 T. ketchup
2 t cider vinegar
2 T hot pepper sauce
red pepper flakes
1 t black pepper
1 t crushed red pepper
2 t liquid smoke
3 lb bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts

Throw all the above in the crockpot and cook for 8 hours or so on low. Shred the chicken.
Serve on buns with shredded cabbage.

Tip: It's a great idea to have this the same week as the fish tacos (see..post) so all the cabbage gets eaten!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beef Stew

 I have mentioned before that my mother wasn't much of a cook...my father, however, had a few dishes that he would create on the weekends to supplement. One of my favorites was beef stew. This dish has been a staple in my repertoire for years and I doubt I make it the same way twice. The basics are the same, but refrigerator contents play a large role, for instance, I don't usually use mushrooms, but I had some on hand, so I threw them in. I have used brussel sprouts in the past as well, so be creative! Here is what I did this time!


2 lbs chuck roast, prepackaged for stew or cut up
Flour, salt and pepper for dregging
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped onions
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can beef broth
6 large mushrooms, quartered
carrots, 10-15 baby
potatoes, 4-6 quartered
rutabaga(turnips, parsnips work well too), one large, two small, cut into bite sized chunks

Dreg beef in seasoned flour and brown in skillet in butter. Transfer to crock pot. Sauté onions and carrots in same skillet, scraping beef bits from bottom of pan.  After about 5 minutes, add garlic and mushrooms and sauté another 1-2 minutes. Add wine, broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Pour sauce over meat in crock pot and cook on low 3-4 hours. Add the carrots and rutabaga or other root vegetables and continue cooking. After about an hour, add the potatoes and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours longer, until vegetables are tender.

I serve this with salad and homemade artisan bread...delicious! Two pounds of beef makes a full crockpot of stew, so this is another instance where I cook, serve, freeze and still have some leftovers for the next day. I paid about $8 for the meat and I would estimate that the rest of the ingredients totaled about $5, so for $13 I made at least 8 servings(probably more like 10) of stew...let's see, that's about $1.65 a serving...not bad and the crockpot did most of the work!

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Two Bean Burritos

Two Bean...three. This recipe was in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel years ago. I copied it and have made it countless times. I did search online for the original recipe and couldn't find it; however, the credit (if you like it) is not mine. It belongs to The Outpost, a local coop grocery store.

1 small white onion, diced
2 T canola oil
2 gloves, garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced
2 t grd cumin
2 t chili powder
1/2 t sugar
1 can pinto beans, drained
2 cans back beans, drained
(I have used any three cans of beans combined. For the picture I used 1 can navy beans, 1 can black beans, and 1 can refried beans...I'm all about what's in the pantry!!)
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro
cheese..original recipe called for 1/3 lb cheddar and 1/4 lb Monterey Jack. I usually use 1-2 c. cheddar and skip the Monterey Jack...just because that's what I usually have on hand and it decreases the fat a bit to decrease the amount of cheese.
6 flour tortillas

Saute onions in hot oil until soft. Add garlic, peppers, cumin, chili powder, and sugar. cook until soft. Remove from heat and add beans (mashing them a bit, cilantro, and green onion.

Often (like today), I'll put this mixture in the refrigerator and assemble them closer to dinner. Sometimes I will roll the tortillas with the mixture and cover the pans in the fridge...then I just have to preheat the oven and bake when I get home. Tonight I was home at 6:00 or so, so I had enough time to assemble and bake them right before eating.

Add the cheese to the cooled bean mixture. Fill the tortillas and roll placing on a sprayed baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes at 400 degrees. Serve with salsa. OR...you could roll and put them in a baking dish and pour salsa over the top and serve them as smothered burritos.

Leftovers are great for lunch the next day.

Just a note, this is fine without the cilantro or green onions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

When I told Meghan we were having this for dinner, she did a little "happy dance".  As I have mentioned in previous posts, my family is not a huge fan of lasagna. This is another great lasagna alternative. This makes a lot of shells and I usually make one pan for dinner and one pan for the freezer (Glad makes an oven ready disposable casserole dish that works great for this). This is also a great dish to make for a pot luck or if you are making a meal for a family...you can always leave out the artichokes and it is very family friendly. I've also thought about substituting spinach for the artichokes...

  • 12 oz jumbo pasta shells
    3 T olive oil
    1 c chopped onion
    3 cloves garlic, minced
    1 lb ground turkey
    Salt & Pepper
    1 pkg frozen artichokes, chopped or 1 can artichokes packed in water
    15 oz ricotta cheese
    3/4 c grated parmesan
    2 eggs, lightly beaten
    1/4 c chopped fresh basil
    5 c pasta sauce
    1 1/2 c grated mozzarella


Cook shells until tender but still firm, 5-6 minutes. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the ground turkey, salt and pepper, cook until turkey is cooked. Add artichoke hearts, stir to combine.
In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley and salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Cover the bottom of a 9"x13" baking dish with 1 c sauce. Stuff shells with turkey mixture. Place the shells in the pan on top of the sauce. Drizzle remaining sauce over the shells and top with the grated mozzarella.
If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap. To bake, preheat the oven to 400F. Bake until shells are warmed through and cheese is beginning to brown, 60 minutes if frozen, 20 minutes if fresh.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cauliflower Pie

The veggie box is here!

As I have mentioned previously, it can be inspirational to get the fresh vegetables; however, sometimes it can be a bit of work. Years and years and years ago, back when CSA was a new concept to me (we have been doing this for 13 years), I don't think Farmer Steve had it figured out as well as he does now. We seemed to get celery root and eggs in abundance....and not much else. We used to joke with the other family about the celery root. I mean, a bit is OK, but 6 bulbs of it every single week for the summer seemed to get old VERY quickly. Fortunately, there has been improvement and we get more variety and just a couple deliveries of this bulbous vegetable every year. I do remember that year and have to chuckle every time I see it.
See, nothing too pretty about this vegetable.
Fall brings many vegetables and I like to make something hearty with them that uses them right away. I find that if I don't stay on top of the box I end up with....well....old apples and wilting peppers (see 10/30 post by Elizabeth)....or worse. It seems terrible to let any food go bad, so, to avoid that I try to cook with the vegetables on the weekend after they arrive. Or...at least do a mass reduction by cooking them and getting them in a state where they last a bit longer. Parboiling and freezing many items helps to preserve their goodness and allow me to have good ingredients on hand for meals to come together quickly later.

It IS a bit of work to get the box; however, it does pay off in the good meals we have. We like to support those small local farmers and this allows us to do that without making time to regularly go to a Farmer's Market (although that is fun too). I enjoy getting things that I may not normally purchase and am (usually) up for the challenge.

Soups and pot pies seems to work really well for this too. Then I'm ready for the week with healthy dinners so we can all eat the vegetables we should....if the meals are served "fresh" or out of the freezer.

Here is another "pie" version that we enjoy. It's a good CSA recipe since substitutions work well....always good to have the recipe adapt well to what you have on hand! As I searched through my recipes I found a couple that take large amounts of the vegetables I received or look like substitutions of the vegetables I have will work.

This is a cauliflower pie recipe of unknown origin:
3 medium potatoes
Boil and mash them and add
2 T minced onion and a bit of salt and pepper
Put mixture into a sprayed pan (sprayed with Pam) to form a crust and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or so.
Steam 1 head of cauliflower (usually I do this in the pan I used to cook the potatoes, so it saves on clean up)
Melt 1-2 T butter or olive oil and add:
1 chopped onion (usually I use the rest of the onion after using the 2T minced)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Remove from heat and add:
1 T fresh basil
1 egg
4 oz cheddar, grated
( I mix all these ingredients together in the same pan I used for cooking the potatoes and steaming the broccoli/cauliflower)
Bake entire dish at 375 until warm and bubbly...about 30 minutes or so.

That's the regular recipe. I mad a few changes to work with the items I had.
I added some peeled celery root to the potatoes and boiled and mashed it with them. I threw in some of the par boiled turnip from my freezer. I really think that bag is bottomless.
I sauteed a diced carrot along with the onion as well as one chopped leek and omitted the garlic because....gasp...I was out of garlic. I used about 1/2 huge head of cauliflower and a small head of broccoli.

This is one of those recipes that gives you a full dose of vegetables to make up for the days where you may fall a bit short on the veggie intake!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Simon and Garfunkel" Crockpot Chicken

OK, the name is a bit of a stretch, but my last CSA box arrived last week and in it I received, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. For those of you who are old enough to know who Simon and Garfunkel are, you get the connection...for the rest of you, google it!

It started as a cold, dark, rainy day, so I thought a crock pot meal was in order. As I type this up it has become a beautiful fall day, but the dish should be fabulous anyway!

8 bone-in, skinned chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of one lemon
olive oil or butter for browning chicken
Flour for dregging
2 T flour
2-3 cups chicken broth
Fresh Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme(2-3 T parsley, 2-3t of the rest) chopped

Dreg chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and brown on stove top. Transfer to a crock pot. Sauté the onion, celery and carrots in same pan you browned the chicken in until wilted and almost caramelized. Add minced garlic and the fresh herbs and cook 1-2 minutes. Add lemon juice, then sprinkle vegetables with 2 T flour and cook until thickened. Add the chicken broth slowly...the finished product should be thinner than a gravy but thicker than plain chicken broth. Pour mixture over chicken in crock pot and cook on low for 3-4 hours. Serve with noodles, rice or mashed potatoes.

I served this with mashed CSA potatoes and broccoli and brussel sprouts from the box as well...it was delicious! Very much a comfort food meal, but tasty and rib-stickin' good!

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Eggplant and Potato Masala

Indian food....I'll put that with beets as far as the love it or hate it category. We love it...although not too frequently. Years ago I went to some Indian cooking classes taught by a local woman who had just published a cookbook, Healthy South Indian Cooking. She lives in Whitefish Bay, so I did buy the book to support her cooking efforts and have found that I have used it frequently...not daily....but every couple months or so. It is a nice reference if you're looking to get out of a dinner rut. And, hey, mine is autographed!

The recipe I made is an adaptation of her Eggplant and Potato Masala.

2 T canola oil
2 med potatoes, cut into smallish chunks
1 small eggplant, cut into similar size chunks
small piece of cinnamon stick
1 t cumin seeds
1/2 c onion, chopped
1 t turmeric
1 t cayenne (or to taste)
1 t salt
1/4 t curry powder
14 oz can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
1 T unsweetened coconut (optional)
cilantro, optional

Heat oil in skillet. When it is hot, but not smoking, add cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. cover and fry for a couple minutes (until seeds are brown). Add onion and stir fry for a bit. Add potatoes and turmeric powder. Mix well and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or so stirring nearly the entire time. Add eggplant, cayenne, salt, curry, and tomatoes. Stir in 1/4 c water so so. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender (checking to make sure the mixture is moist. If not, add 1/4 c of water).

I happened to have shredded coconut in my freezer from some Asian recipe from long ago, so I did add it. BUT, I assure you, it is fine without this. I also added some cilantro since I had a bunch in the refrigerator that wasn't going to make it a few more days. Both of these are optional!

I threw in a diced jalapeno with the onions just because I had it from our garden.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup

Brian and Jack were away on a college trip to Boston recently so I cheated a bit and got a rotisserie chicken for Meghan and me for dinner...the next day I decided I would try to make Chicken Tortilla soup, one of my favorite soups, using what was left of the chicken. We had barely put a dent in the chicken, so I had about 1 lb of chicken to use in the soup...here is what I did.

1 rotisserie chicken, 1 lb of the meat and the bones to make the broth
2 onions, one quartered, one chopped
1 cup chopped celery
2-3 T hot peppers(I had a mixture of jalepeno and banana chopped in my freezer)
4 garlic cloves, minced
Juice of 1-2 limes
1 16 ounce can diced tomatoes
1-2 T cumin
1-2 T chili powder
salt and pepper
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes chopped
1 cup frozen corn
fresh corn tortillas

Remove all chicken from carcass and set aside. Put carcass, 6-8 cups water, 1 quartered onion, the celery and the hot peppers in a pot, add salt and pepper and simmer 1-1 1/2 hours. Strain broth and discard bones. You should have 6-8 cups broth.

Sauté one chopped onion in 1T vegetable oil in pot until translucent, add 2/3 of the minced garlic. Add 1 t cumin and the red pepper flakes, cook 2 minutes. Add broth, canned tomatoes, 1/2 the lime juice. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add remaining garlic to the remaining lime juice and pour over diced chicken. Let marinate while broth is simmering.

Purée broth in batches in blender and return to pan. In a separate pan, sauté chopped fresh tomatoes with 1-2 T chili powder, 1/2-1 T cumin, the drained and rinsed beans and the corn. When liquid is almost evaporated, add chicken with marinade. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add this mixture to the broth. Season with chili powder and cumin to personal preference.

To make tortilla strips, cut fresh corn tortillas in strips and fry in 1 inch of oil, drain on paper towels and add salt.
Serve with sour cream, tortilla strips, avocado, fresh cilantro etc. If not really motivated, use store bought tortilla chips...
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Fall Sunday Dinner

What to have? I had gotten some pork tenderloins at the infamous Sendik's meat sale and just needed a day where we had time to put them on the grill. That came on a recent Sunday! The original recipe (origin unknown) called for apricot preserves, but I was trying to use up some things in the fridge, so this is what I did.

1/2 c mango chutney
1/2 c balsamic vinegar (Trader Joe's..inexpensive stuff for marinating)
4 T. grainy mustard

I marinated the loins in this mixture for much of the day and then we grilled them...about 40 minutes or so. I wanted to boil the marinade mixture on the stove after the loins were on the grill, and serve that good sauce over the finished sliced and over the potatoes, but I didn't speak soon enough and it was gone. That would be my recommendation...I hope to try it next time.

I had baby greens from the CSA box, so I made a dressing with 18 year old balsamic vinegar, mustard and olive oil. I had a few raspberries for the salad also.

I served it with CSA baked acorn squash, mashed potatoes, and salad. What a great end to the weekend.

It was quite a meal (look how pretty)!! We served it with RCTJWF (Really Cool Trader Joe's Wine Find), so it was a really festive Sunday meal.

OK. Now we're ready for the week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Irish Root Soup

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We rarely go out to eat, but we have found that we all like County Clare, a hotel and restaurant here in Milwaukee. I was a bit reluctant to try it, I was thinking they would have bland food and tough meat...boy, I was wrong!

We liked this soup so much that I searched for a similar recipe online and found this. I usually make half the recipe; that seems to be enough for our small family. Paul isn't a huge cooked carrot fan, but he does like this.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Winter Squash and Plain Cheese Ravioli

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was determined to make the squash ravioli work.

A long time ago I had a very basic pasta roller...it was lost along the way in one move or another, but I remember that it was A) not very expensive and B) really easy to use. I decided I needed to add a pasta roller to my kitchen again, so with my 20% off coupon to Bed, Bath and Beyond, I set off to buy this kitchen utensil. It set me back about $28, but I am sure I will get plenty of use out of it. Besides, I get to try the ravioli again!

In order to make this ravioli, you first have to make the seasoned winter squash purée recipe I posted on 11/2. Or you can just make plain cheese ravioli...the recipe is below and I have posted pictures of the ravioli making process. I forgot to take pictures when I was making the squash recipe, so the pictures are from the cheese ravioli, but the process is the same.

The Pasta - one batch enough for either cheese or squash...double to make both

3 eggs
1/2 t salt
21/2 cups flour
water as needed

Place the flour in a food processor fitted with a blending blade. Gently scramble eggs and add to the flour through the feed tube. Add water 1 T at at time and blend until dough forms a ball. Knead 6-8 times and wrap in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit for 30 minutes. Cut the pasta into 8 equal parts. Using a pasta roller, follow the manufacturer's directions and make pasta sheets. I usually make 2 at a time, make some ravioli and repeat...this way the dough doesn't dry out. To make the ravioli, place 1-2 t of filling(either cheese or squash) on the pasta sheet, approximately 1 inch apart. Using a pastry brush, brush the edges of the pasta with water so that when you lay the second sheet of pasta on top to form the ravioli, the pasta sticks together. Using a knife or pastry wheel, cut the raviolis apart and place them on parchment paper to dry. Save the scrap pasta, you can use it to make more pasta sheets. I usually freeze the ravioli by stacking the parchment paper on a plate and placing the plate in the freezer. Once the ravioli is frozen, I transfer it to a ziploc bag.

Cheese Ravioli Filling - Basic Recipe

1 cup Ricotta cheese(I use fat-free)
1 1/2 ounces grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and use to fill the ravioli...

This is a rainy day project...it is time consuming, so make sure you have enough time to complete the process. Also, DON'T STACK THE RAVIOLI ON TOP OF EACH OTHER...ONE LAYER AT A TIME OR THEY WILL STICK TOGETHER FOREVER!

I served this ravioli with butter and pine nuts...forgot the picture again, sorry.  The cheese ravioli would be great with a marinara sauce. The butternut squash would be awesome with browned butter...both were great!

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I have a couple recipes for jambalaya that are pretty similar...and then, surprise, I adapted it a bit to what I had on hand. The recipes are so similar..one calls for Penzey's Cajun seasoning but the other one outlines the ingredients that are probably in the Cajun seasoning.

Here is how I made it this time:
2 slices bacon, remove from pan and wipe out skillet
1 chicken breast, diced, in 1/2-1 T. olive oil (amount will depend on how well the pan was wiped)
Add: 2 links chorizo (it was in the freezer leftover from Spanish Pan Roast), cut into 1/4 inch slices. The recipe calls for smoked sausage, but I had chorizo and that was fine. After I browned the slices I cut them in half.
Remove everything from pan.

1 T. brown sugar and stir it to carmelize. Saute:
4 c. chopped onions
2 c chopped celery
2 c. chopped green peppers
1 T. chopped garlic
After veggies are starting to soften add the meat back in the skillet and add:
5 c. chicken stock
Bring to a boil and add:

4 c. rice
1 T. Cajun seasoning
Return to a boil. cover and reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir and continue cooking uncovered until the rice is done, about 15 minutes.

I made this on a day off through the first simmer and refrigerated it until after swim practice. Once we got home I finished cooking it. I chopped the veggies the night before and had them in a container, so, even though I wasn't working, I could throw it together pretty quickly in between errands.
I was lucky to have so many fresh green peppers and onions from the CSA box, so I was able to use them while they were fresh. I threw in some chives at the end since the recipe called for 2 c. chopped green onions to be put in at the end.

The original recipes called for an entire cut up chicken and making your own stock. Although I do like to make my own stock, I needed this to come together a bit quicker than that would take. Additionally, the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 lb sausage, and I just used the two links.

Paul likes things hotter than Eleanor, so he used some hot sauce to make it to his taste.

This makes a HUGE amount (serves 12) but I usually freeze about half the recipe. It doesn't take that much longer to make the entire batch. This time I froze a few quart size ziplocs of this for easy lunches.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Winter Squash Purée

This recipe was born after having a recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli fail miserably. The recipe called for making a squash mixture and then filling wonton wrappers like ravioli. It was a complete failure! The wonton wrappers took on a slimy consistency and it just wasn't ravioli in the end. The filling, however, was yummy, so I decided I had to try again.
Purée before adding cheeses and seasonings


1 lb butternut squash or 2 cups cooked squash purée
1/3 cup chopped shallot
1/4-1/2 cup fat free ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
Salt and pepper

It is winter squash season in the CSA box and I have acorn, ambercup, hubbard, carnival and spaghetti squash on hand. I cut the squash, took out the seeds and baked the squash, cut side down, on a cookie sheet until tender, usually 30-40 minutes at 400°F. While it was cooking I sautéed 2 shallots in butter and added 2-3 minced sage leaves. Once the squash was cooked, I puréed all the cooked squash together. I am not a fan of spaghetti squash, so this way I use the squash but I don't have to taste it! I put 2 cups of the  squash mixture in with the shallots and added the ricotta and parmesan cheese. This makes a great side dish for almost anything, tasty and creamy and the shallots and sage do wonders. The remainder of the plain squash purée I froze in 2 cups containers so  we can enjoy this dish all winter long! Once the purée was made and the plain purée was put away I realized I really wanted to make the ravioli. I'll save that for another day...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sausage Pie

This recipe and picture was sent to me by my mom. She made it the other night and sent the recipe and some pictures to me. She thought it would be a good addition to the blog. So...I haven't tried it...yet..but it sure looks good!

1 1/4 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 cup butter
Add: 3/4 cup sour cream. Flatten into pie plate and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Prick with a fork and bake @ 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

Cook about 8 oz of Italian sausage. Remove from pan. Add 1 T butter and melt. Add and saute 1 cup minced onion, 1 cup mixed-colors bell peppers, and a handful of mushrooms. Stir in 1 c mashed potatoes and some (1 cup or so)shredded Swiss cheese. Spoon into baked crust.

Bake 15-20 minutes more.

She served it with cauliflower and tomato slices drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.