28 December 2012

Cookie recipes for leftover cranberry sauce

Remember that ridiculously simple cranberry sauce I told you about last week? It packs a punch, so you may have some left.  You can use it as a relish in sandwiches made with the leftover ham or pork you grilled, stir it into yogurt or oatmeal for breakfast,OR you can make some scrumptious cookies with it.  Here are my two favorites (one is simple, one obscenely gluttonous):

Fatty-Fat-Fat Layered Cranberry Bar Cookie

Buttery shortbread, cranberry sauce, and a chocolate chip-oatmeal cookie on top--better make a plan to resume jogging after you make these.  

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; gradually stir in flour until well blended. Spread or pat in an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan and pierce with a fork. Bake at 300° for 20 minutes, until dough is still blond but getting flaky and firm. Remove shortbread from oven, cover in a layer of about a cup of leftover cranberry sauce (you could also do this with any flavor of fruit preserves or a sweet chutney), and then top with 

Oatmeal cookie dough:
cups packed brown sugar
cup butter or margarine, softened
teaspoon vanilla
cup quick-cooking oats
cup unbleached flour
teaspoon baking soda
teaspoon salt
cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, stir brown sugar and butter until blended. Stir in vanilla and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in oats, flour, baking soda and salt; stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
Onto ungreased cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart.
Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

*     *     *      *     *     *      *     *     *      *     *     *      

Cranberry Thumbprint Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen

This is a simple riff on traditional Scandinavian thumbprint cookies; the dough gets replaced with the shortbread dough from above, and the fruit preserves get replaced with leftover cranberry sauce. Simple, rich, and addictive. 

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

about 3/4 cup leftover cranberry sauce
Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line two cookie cheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter, almond extract, and sugar until light and fluffy; gradually stir in flour and salt until well blended. Roll into tablespoon-size balls and flatten slightly with palms; place on cookie sheet.  With your thumb, create a well in the middle and fill with leftover cranberry sauce.

Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bottoms are lightly browned.  

26 December 2012

My favorite leftover tricks: things with pancakes

Anything savory in your leftover pile works well with bread and eggs--sandwiches, quiches (large or small), or just a pile of scrambled eggs make good vehicles for meat and vegetables.  Soups are a common standby (and those mashed sweet potatoes would make a great thickener for a broth), and chopped meat and veggies can easily go into a lasagne or be stir fried with some leftover rice or tossed with vermicelli or ramen. But nothing says "leftover fun" like Korean drunk food.  Pa Jun is an eggy pancake usually filled with green onions and gobbled up late at night to soak up the alcohol poisoning that might otherwise ensue after a wild night of karaoke.  It's also comforting, simple to make, and breathes new life into your leftover holiday meal.  

Pa Jun (Korean pancake) with leftovers

Serves 4 with a side salad

2 cups flour
2 eggs, beaten
1.5 cups water
1 cup diced leftover meat and vegetables
1 tsp salt
Oil for cooking

Mix all ingredients together and let sit for about 10 minutes. Check consistency before cooking – batter should be a little bit runnier than American pancake batter, so that the Pa Jun cooks quickly and evenly.

Heat a saute pan over medium heat and coat with a thin layer of oil. Pour batter to fill pan in a thin layer (about 1/3 of your batter should fill a regular saute pan). Cook for 3-4 minutes until set and golden brown on bottom. Turn over with help of spatula or plate (or flip it in the air if you are good at that) and finish by cooking 1-2 more minutes, adding more oil if necessary.
Serve with soy sauce and Sriracha on the side.  

*     *     *     *     *     *      *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Crepes are an equally logical vehicle for your leftovers--be sure to stir in some sauce or gravy if you have it, and combine whatever leftovers you like together.  Those green beans with gorgonzola and bacon would be surprisingly good with a touch of cranberry sauce, by the way--get creative.  Crack open a work  beer to inspire you in the kitchen. If you make the crepes with chick pea flour, they'll have a pleasant, nutty taste and pack an extra protein punch.

Basic crepes

Serves 4

1.5 cup flours in any combination: chicke pea, whole wheat, unbleached white...
2/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients, adjusting flour content to produce a runny batter that will create a thin crepe.  Cook over medium heat in a large hot skillet that has been liberally prepared with cooking spray until golden on each side.  Each crepe should fill the skillet, yielding a total of four. 

Meanwhile, gently heat leftover filling(s) in the microwave or in a saucepan over medium-low heat: plan on 1 to 1.5 cups of filling per crepe.  To assemble, lay one crepe on a plate, spoon one fourth of the filling in a line slightly to one side of the center of the crepe, and roll.  

Some crepe fillings from our leftover menu:

Green beans with bacon and gorgonzola + cranberry sauce

Thai mashed sweet potatoes + roast meat (+ cranberry sauce)
Roasted vegetables with or without roast meat

21 December 2012

'Tis the season: feeding a crowd of sleazy people who have suddenly amassed at your doorstep for the holidays (aka, your family)

I love my family, and I love having them over for a big meal, but sweet Jesus do I hate spinning in circles in my kitchen for hours, dirtying every non-dishwasher-safe pot and pan that I own. Can't I love them without becoming thoroughly exhausted by noon?  Yes, I think I can.

The night before, you can whip up a simple, preservative-free Cranberry Sauce.  Boil 1 bag fresh cranberries (pick out the squashed duds) with 1 cinnamon stick, 1 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cloves, and 1 cup of either orange juice of apple cider.  Cover and lower heat to medium, stirring occasionally until berries have all burst and the sauce starts to thicken, then remove from heat.  When it's cool, refrigerate; you can either serve it at room temperature (put it out when you start cooking the next day) or hot for the feast.

You can also make your pies the night before.  Then, on the big day...

Grill some pork (or ham).  Let the men do it--they like sitting outside near open fire for some reason.  And if you brine it the night before, it really doesn't take that much time to cook.  This frees up the oven to...

Roast potatoes.  Throw in whatever other veggies people will eat, too.  Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cubed squash, and carrots are all fair game, and the roasting often sweetens things up, making unpopular bitter vegetables like the above more palatable to cabbage-family haters.  Then, on the stove top you can quickly make...

Thai Red Curry Mashed Sweet Potatoes.  Peel, cut, and boil 4-6 medium sweet potatoes until soft (you can also throw in some butternut squash if you want).  Drain and add 2 teaspoons red curry paste, 1 teaspoon lime juice, 1 cup coconut milk, and salt and black pepper to taste.  Mash the hell out of 'em.  And if you have a steamer insert, you can steam 2 pounds of fresh

Green Beans right over the boiling potatoes.  In the oven that is lovingly roasting your vegetables, you can bake 6 strips of bacon until crisp and crumble them over your cooked green beans.  First, toss the bright green, al dente beans with 1 clove smashed garlic, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then drizzle a little of the bacon grease over it, stir, and top with crumbled bacon and crumbled gorgonzola.

You'll have so much free time, you'll be able to mull some cider and sip happily with a heavy pour of rum (or, the favorite add-in at the Byrnes-Riner house, tequila): dump a gallon of apple cider into a Dutch oven or similarly large vessel, and add 1 large orange studded generously with cloves (great project for someone stationary who's not helping enough), 2 cinnamon sticks, and 1 dried star anise (optional).  Simmer over medium-low heat until it's good and hot, and let it cook for as long as you like--the flavors get stronger with time.  Add the rum or tequila directly to your cup to avoid cooking off the precious alcohol.

Then the fun begins all over again with leftovers...stay tuned for those. Happy holidays!

14 December 2012

Tuscan (?) Kale and White Bean Soup

“I’m not persuaded by kale. I do not accept it as the new spinach.” Frank Bruni"

Well, it's not the new spinach, Frank, because it's better--it has texture, for one.  I keep reading recipes claiming to be Tuscan that mix kale and white beans into a soup.  I have no evidence that this soup truly is Tuscan, but here it is.  

Tuscan Kale and White Bean Soup

Serves 8

1 ½ cups dry white beans
1 bay leaf
1 dried red chili. whole
½ yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 large bunch kale, chopped
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon lemon zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 14.5-oz. can crushed tomatoes in their sauce
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Soak beans overnight.  Drain, rinse, and place in a pressure cooker or stock pot along with bay leaf, dried chili, and 2 teaspoons salt.  Pour 3 cups of water in and bring to a boil.  Cook 25 minutes in the pressure cooker, 1 ½ hours in the stock pot, or until beans are tender.

Meanwhile, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan.  When it shimmers, sauté the onion and carrot until they begin to get soft, about 10 minutes.  Add the kale, mushrooms, oregano, and rosemary and stir to coat; add the lemon juice and lemon zest, stir again, and cover.  Cook until the kale is wilted, about 5 minutes.  Turn off heat and stir in the garlic; cover and set aside.  

When beans are done, add tomatoes and sautéed vegetables to the pot.  Season with salt and pepper.  

07 December 2012

Sweet and Sour Cauliflower

I love fish and pasta, but those two mild flavors require something a little peppier on the plate.  I came up with this when I had cauliflower on hand and wanted to roast it, but didn't want to add yet more bland, polite flavor to the dinner table.  Really, you could use any roasted vegetables for this, but I think the tang from the vinegar works best with earthy, charred veggies.  You can serve this as a side or toss it with wheat berries or quinoa for a hearty lunch to go. Serve hot or room temperature.

Sicilian Sweet-and-Sour Roasted Cauliflower

Serves 4 as a side 

1 large head cauliflower, broken into bite-sized florets
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into ¼-inch discs
1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small jalapeno, sliced into rings
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, sliced thinly
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar
Crushed red pepper to taste

Toss cauliflower, carrot, red pepper, and jalapeno with a little olive oil and salt, spread onto a baking sheet, and roast in the oven at 425°F for 20 minutes or until vegetables are softened and browned.  (Stir once or twice during baking.)

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat and cook onion until it becomes very soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes.  Lower heat to medium-low and stir in raisins, sugar, and vinegar.  Simmer 2-3 minutes and check for desired level of sweetness.  Turn off heat and cover until vegetables are roasted.

Toss vegetables with pine nuts and vinegar sauce in a large serving bowl.  Season with crushed red pepper.

30 November 2012

Another homage to Brazil

The last night I was in Brazil, I was entreated to a night at the local Samba bar, which I was assured was a "very Brazilian experience".  The band was very loud and people were boisterous, not so different from a good bar at home.  But Samba music is for carnival, which would be sort of like partying in New Orleans, and interestingly, although the dance floor was a reasonable size, many people chose to merely stand up behind their chairs and dance, thereby maintaining conversation with their table mates. I can't universalize this experience since it was the only Samba bar I visited, but I describe it to you because it effected the atmosphere; dancing was not cordoned off to an appropriate place, it was everywhere!  And therefore the dance floor sort of came to us, whether we were standing or sitting.

Buckets of that weak, weak beer were kept full at all times throughout the bar, and at some point a large sizzling platter (think fajitas) arrived on the table filled with meat, veggies, and cheese, with a little crusty garlic bread on the side.  Everyone took nibbles between sweat-inducing dances and still felt full of energy at 2am when we left! I tried out this recreation on my meat-loving family when they visited last week and it was a hit.  We probably could have stood some exercise afterward, though...

Brazilian Sizzling Plate

Serves 6

For the meat:
2.5-3 lb. flank steak or similar cut
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon mustard
2 shallots, finely minced
other ingredients:
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cubed, and boiled until al dente
4 white potatoes, peeled, cubed, and boiled until al dente
3 bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch strips
4 oz. white mushrooms, sliced
salt to taste
8 oz. shredded or thinly sliced cheese of your choice (I used Irish cheddar), optional

Grill the meat outside: The night before you make this, combine steak and all marinade ingredients thoroughly in a gallon zip-top bag.  Refrigerate overnight and turn occasionally.  Grill over hot coals 3-4 inches from the heat; cook 4 minutes on each side for mid-rare or longer if you want the meat more done (it will cook a little more on the grill pan). Cover in foil to keep warm while you...

Toss the veggies with a little bit of olive oil and salt.  On a well-oiled grill pan inside, cook everything until it chars (if you have to do it in shifts, just keep what's been cooked on a baking sheet in the oven at 250 F so it stays warm).  Slice the grilled meat into thin strips and toss with all of the veggies on the grill pan (add anything that's been sitting in the oven).  Sprinkle cheese on top and cover with a large heat-proof bowl; cook just until cheese is melted.

Plop the grill pan on the table, serve with crusty white bread, hot sauces, and forks.  Plates optional.

24 November 2012

Can't we all get along? Ebony and Ivory dessert

OK, sorry if that was too crass.  And don't read into it because the white is on top--I just like undercooked brownie. This is basically a fudgey layer of brownie topped with dreamy, fluffy coconut cake.  And now that  we've blown our diets on Thanksgiving turkey and pumpkin pie, why not just keep going until Christmas?

You can do this all in one bowl if you don’t mind wiping it out between layers, which need to be cooked in shifts, anyway.

Black-bottom Coconut Bars

Black Bottom:
1 stick (½ cup) melted butter
1 egg
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

White Top:
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup white sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup sweetened, shredded coconut, plus more for top

Directions:  Heat the oven to 375°F.  Grease a 9-inch cake pan.  Combine all ingredients for the Black Bottom and spread evenly into the pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool about 5 minutes

Combine all ingredients for the White Top (using ½ cup of the coconut for this mixture).  With a large spoon, drop dollops of the coconut batter on top of the Black Bottom layer and gently spread to form an even layer of White Top.  Sprinkle more shredded coconut on top and return to oven.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until coconut on top is browned.

(This song inspired the title of the dessert, and it is also proof that the '80s sucked.)

20 November 2012

Another butternut squash soup

I've always wanted to try some version of African peanut stew  because it sounds crazy and I love peanut butter.  Well, I haven't always wanted to try it--when I was a child, I probably wouldn't have given a shit if you had mentioned it to me.  But for over six months, for sure, I have thought it sounded interesting.  The recipes I've found call for sweet potato, but I had butternut squash, as you know, so here goes:

African Peanut Stew
Makes 4-6 servings
Can be served as a soup or over couscous for a little more heft. 

Olive oil
1 medium red onion
1 poblano pepper, seeded and ribs removed, finely chopped (you can use 2 jalapenos if you can't find poblano)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups veggie stock
1 large butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons peanut butter
2 cups tightly packed baby spinach
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Roasted peanuts
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over a medium flame. Add the onion, pepper, and carrot and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder, and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes and the salt and simmer until soft and reduced, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the squash and cover with stock until submerged (it might be less than 4 cups, depending on the size of your pot). Bring the liquids to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Whisk in the peanut butter and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and then garnish with the cilantro and peanuts.

16 November 2012

Brazilian drinks

The beer is terrible in Brazil (think Budweiser, but with a few different names), and the beer on tap, or Chopp, is the weakest of the bunch.  If you want to drink all night and never get drunk, this is the way to go. I have noticed this--the hotter the climate, the weaker the beer.  And always German-style lagers.  You can read into that whatever you want.

Even stronger alcoholic drinks don't pack as much of a punch in Brazil, but they highlight delicious fresh fruit and locally made, cane-based products, so I think they're the way to go.  The national cocktail seems to be caipirinha, made with Cachaça, sugar, and limes.  Caipiroskas are similar (but made with vodka) and often come in a variety of different fruits at bars.  Cachaça is available in the States at larger liquor stores (here in NoCo, Wilbur's in Fort Collins carries one that works just fine for mixed drinks), and Brazilians assure me that top-shelf is not necessary--or even desired--for making caipirinhas.

Standard Caipirinha--as dictated to me by Thiago, a very talented bartender who may have a drinking problem, in Goiania.

Serves 1

ice (we don't measure these things)

In a short old-fashioned glass or other tumbler, place 1 thin-skinned lime, quartered, and muddle until the juice has been released.  Pour in approximately 2 tablespoons sugar, a generous handful of cracked ice (be sure the pieces are not too big or they'll suddenly water down the drink), and fill with cachaça .  Stir with a long spoon and drink sloooooowly.

Strawberry Caipiroska (I can't claim authenticity in procedure here--this is just my replica of what I had at a samba bar in Goiania)

Serves 1

6 strawberries*, washed and quartered
1 tablespoon sugar
2 oz. vodka
cracked ice

Place the strawberries and sugar in an old fashioned glass and allow to sit about 5 minutes, or until strawberries start to give off juice.  (This can also be done ahead of time, in larger quantities, in a container kept in the refrigerator until it's cocktail time.)  Stir strawberry-sugar mixture, add vodka, stir again, and top with ice.

*Can also use chunked pineapple, limes, lemons, mangoes, or passion fruit.

13 November 2012

Butternut Squash, part deux

I just realized I implied some kind of series of butternut squash recipes a while ago, but I got so wrapped up in memories of Brazil that I have not delivered. I still have a hell of a lot of squash, though.  So I thought, if everyone from Missouri to Ohio can put zucchini in their quick bread, surely butternut squash could serve a similar purpose.  See what you think:

Marbled Butternut Squash Bread
Yields 1 loaf
1 1/2 cups (about 370 grams) butternut squash puree**
1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
1 cup (200 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the butternut squash puree, oil, and sugar, mixing until uniform. Beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gradually mix in the flours, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.
In a medium bowl, mix together the cocoa powder with 3 tablespoons hot water until it forms a paste. Add 1/3 of the butternut squash batter and stir until incorporated. Set aside.
In order to achieve a marbled effect, mentally divide the loaf pan into 6 different sections. Pour the orange batter into 3 of the sections and the chocolate batter into the other 3 so that it alternates between the colors. Using a spoon, swirl the batter back and forth, taking care to not over-mix the batter. Bake the bread for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
**To make butternut squash puree, roast a butternut squash in a 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven for 25 minutes, or until fork tender. Peel the squash and place into a food processor (or blender) and process until smooth. Drain out any excess moisture.

09 November 2012

Guava Bread Pudding, because I miss Brazil

Brazil is home to many, many amazing fruits, and it shows in their recipes.  Many of these fruits are not available in the States (did you know that the cashew fruit makes an amazing juice when sugar is added?  Yeah, you're not going to find that in Colorado.), but we do what we can.  The typical fresh pineapple juice with muddled mint is an easy enough thing to replicate here at home, for instance, and guava paste can be found in many Latin/ Mexican sections of larger grocery stores now.  Thinly sliced guava paste and queso fresco stacked together makes a typically Brazilian snack or a great filling for dessert empanadas (use puff pastry to make it quicker).  I tried to combine guava paste with a sweet, spiced bread pudding (an homage to Brazil's obsession with white bread for breakfast), and here's what I got:

Guava Bread Pudding
Bread Pudding:
1 day old baguette cubed (~ 6 cups)
4 eggs
1 cup almond milk
3/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup guava nectar
1/3 cup butter, plus a little extra to butter the ramekins
zest from one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar, plus sugar for sprinkling
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup guava paste--cut up into chunks
Guava Sauce:
1 cup guava paste--cut into chunks
juice from 1 orange (I used a blood orange)
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup guava nectar
pinch salt
Melt the Earth Balance and toss with the cubed bread. Set aside. Whisk eggs, almond milk, coconut milk, orange zest, guava nectar, sugars, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and cardamom. Toss in buttered, cubed bread. Stir to combine. Let the bread soak in the custard mixture for at least 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 4 large ramekins. Slice guava paste into 1/2 inch chunks. Heat 1 kettle of water until boiling. Turn down to medium low to keep warm.
Make the sauce: Heat all sauce ingredients in medium saucepan over medium low heat. Stir frequently until guava paste melts. Once guava paste is melted, cook additional 5 minutes. Keep warm on low heat.
Add 1 tablespoon of sauce to each ramekin. Split bread-custard mixture between the 4 prepared ramekins. Wedge guava paste into the custard mixture. Sprinkle the top of each ramekin lightly with sugar. Add each ramekin to a large baking dish. Fill the baking dish halfway with hot water to create a water bath. Bake in the center of the oven for 35-45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the middle of bread pudding is set. Let the bread pudding cool slightly (~10-15 minutes) before serving. 

06 November 2012

When in Brazil...

...you tend to drink a lot of cachaça, the national rum.  It is delicious in a Caipirinha with sugar and lime juice or on its own while engaged in deep conversations about the meaning of life and all the world's problems. But at some point, it becomes a good idea to refuel with some protein to avoid alcohol poisoning. Like coddle in Ireland  or eggs here in the States, Brazilians have a lovely tradition of making a big pot of bean soup to help shake off the hangover and regain your strength after a particularly important night of world problem-solving.  This recipe is my version, with more flavoring in it than what I have been served (and yes, the addition of beer was mine, not native). I think it works anytime you need some comfort and fortitude. 

Pinto Soup

Serves 4-6

2 cups dry pinto beans
½ cup cooked pasta
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves
½ onion
1 carrot, peeled
½ teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Teaspoon salt
6 oz. beer
Salt and pepper to taste
Pico de gallo and lime wedges, for serving

Soak beans overnight. Drain, rinse, and place beans along with bay leaf, garlic, onion, carrot, oregano, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt into a pressure cooker or large pot.  Cover with water and cook for 20 minutes in pressure cooker or about 1 ½ hours over medium heat on the stove (until beans are tender).

Remove bay leaf and transfer cooked bean mixture to a blender; blend until smooth. Return to the pot and add the beer and salt and black pepper to taste.  Stir in pasta at the last minute and heat thoroughly.

Serve with pico de gallo and lime wedges.

02 November 2012

Breakfast Rice Pudding

As you read this post, I am in the midst of teaching and performing in Brazil for 10 days, but thanks to the magic of scheduled blogging, I am sharing this most un-Brazilian of recipes with you.  When I get back (and get over my jetlag, and possible rum hangover), I'll tell you everything, I promise.  

Breakfast Rice Pudding

…and the secret ingredient is tofu!  Tofu haters love this pudding, and when you tell them it’s in there after they have taken a bite and raved about it, the look of betrayal on their faces is so precious.

Makes 6 servings

1 8oz. carton tofu (I use soft, but whatever you have in the pantry is fine)
½  cup vanilla almond milk
¼ cup raw honey
2 cups cooked brown rice
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Add-ins: chopped nuts, raisins, dates, apricots…

Place tofu, milk, honey, and spices in blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and stir in the rice, nuts and dried fruit of your choice.  Keep for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Some combinations I like…walnuts + raisins; pistachios + dried cherries; cashews + apricots

30 October 2012

What to do with butternut squash, first installment

I am not a huge fan of butternut squash, but it's easy to grow and my husband likes it.  I think it's too sweet most of the time, and I don't like its overly mushy texture.  It's like baby food. So, here I am with a glut of the suckers and no clue what to do.  I have been experimenting with ways to sneak it into flavorful dishes to cut the sweetness, and my first success was this soup.  You can make all kinds of substitutions here--use sweet potato or any other squash in place of the butternut, trade out the greens for whatever you prefer, and even the barley can become brown rice, a small pasta shape, or Bulgar wheat easily enough.  If you make any substitutions to this recipe, I'd love to hear about them--comment below!

Butternut Squash Soup with Barley and Kale

Serves 6

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
2 teaspoons salt, divided
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon butter
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups water or vegetable stock
½ cup dried shitake mushrooms, broken into bite-sized pieces
1 cup chopped fresh or frozen kale
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash Tabasco
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Toss the butternut squash and onion with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the smoked paprika.  Spread onto a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 425°F for 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender and starting to turn brown.

Meanwhile, heat the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or large stock pot.  When it melts, add the barley, the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, and the remaining teaspoon of the cumin.  Saute until the barley starts to toast and become fragrant.  Add the water or stock and the dried mushrooms, cover, and increase to medium high heat.  When the soup begins to boil, lower to a simmer and cook until barley is tender, about 30 minutes.  Stir in the kale, lemon juice, and Tabasco and continue to cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the roasted vegetables, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

26 October 2012

Toasted Pasta and Roasted Tomato Sauce

Toasted Spaghetti with Roasted Puttanesca

The name says it all…

Serves 4

1 lb. of your favorite sick pasta (spaghetti, buccatini, linguine…)
4 cups homemade uncooked puttanesca
1 cup cooked chick peas

Break stick pasta in half and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven at 350°F for about 10 minutes, stirring once so that it browns evenly.  Pasta should be golden and starting to blister on the surface slightly. It should look like this:

Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, spread the puttanesca and chick peas out onto a baking sheet.  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and roast in the oven at 375°F for about 20 minutes, or until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Toss together and enjoy!

23 October 2012

Raw Puttanesca Sauce

My favorite puttanesca is garlicky, spicy, and barely cooked.  I prefer to treat it like a pico de gallo on top of pasta, just tossing it enough with the hot pasta to warm it up.  Cooking it for a long time like you do other sauces makes it lose that special fresh quality (and really flattens out the garlic).

When you have a glut of fresh tomatoes, this is a great plan; if the tomatoes are not in perfect condition (usually when texture is grainy inside), you can also simmer it on the stove to disguise their flaws.  Making the raw sauce and then canning it also works really well.

2 lbs. fresh tomatoes, cored and roughly diced
4-6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
1/2 cup green olives, chopped
2 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar to taste

Combine all ingredients and  refrigerate.  Will keep up to one week; otherwise, can it or cook it and then it can be frozen.

19 October 2012

Hummus Pizza

This recipe combines some of my favorite things: pizza, cheese, hummus, and a short ingredient list.  And surely this is healthier for you than a big pile of oil poured underneath the tomatoes, right?...

Hummus Pizza

Makes 8 large slices

1 pizza crust (here's my recipe)
1 cup hummus (here's my recipe)
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, cored and thinly sliced
1 ball smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

Roll out the pizza crust as thin as possible and prebake in the oven at 425°F for 8 minutes or until it starts to get slightly crisp on top.  Remove from oven.  Spread the hummus in an even layer on the crust, then scatter the red onion and lay down the tomato slices.  Lay mozzarella slices evenly across the top and bake in the oven 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

15 October 2012

Whiskey, glorious whiskey!

I am not always proud of my freelance work writing food articles for Examiner.com (and even less proud of the near-illiteracy I see elsewhere on that site), but I'm going to suck it up and show you something because I am SO EXCITED to try bourbon and, coming soon, whiskey from Wyoming Whiskey.  They were the first distillery to open in Wyoming (2009) and they're a truly home-grown operation.  Check out info and some of my favorite recipes here.

And the best cocktail of all utilizing whiskey:

The Millionaire

Serves 1

  • 2 ounces rye whisky
  • 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier
  • 1 dash grenadine
  • egg white (this could make it through two drinks to save on the waste)

  • Shake with cracked ice thoroughly, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

  • 12 October 2012

    A new veggie burger recipe

    When I was first trying out being vegetarian in my early 20s, I bought a lot of artificially flavored, pre-made apologies.  I called them "apologies" because all of these products were made to simulate meat--fake burgers, fake bacon, fake wings--as if eating naturally vegetarian foods like beans, veggies, and grains was somehow just not good enough.  Ironically, these meat apologies were generally pretty unhealthy and in no way resembled meat--if you were turning to Boca in the early 90s for a cure for your meat craving, you were not going to end up happy in the end.  If you were craving cardboard, however, you were in luck...

    Now, I like homemade veggie burgers for what they are: a bunch of grains, vegetables, and perhaps some cheese smashed together into a convenient patty.  They're easy to cook and make a great sandwich filler to go with a beer.  But they can be kind of a pain to make, requiring special ingredients and often getting the balance of wet-to-dry ingredients wrong, making for either very sloppy or very crumbly patties.  Using potatoes makes it easy to keep these patties together, which speeds up the prep time quite a bit.  It's also a great way to use leftover cooked potatoes, and it relies on pantry staples so you never have to make a last-minute run to Whole Paycheck for special grains.  Win-win-win!

    Potato-Bean "Burgers"

    Makes four large patties

    1 cup canned black beans, white beans, or chick peas
    1 carrot, grated
    1/2 onion, diced
    3 potatoes, grated
    4 scallions, chopped
    1 cup corn
    salt and pepper to taste
    oil for frying

    Mash the beans with a fork or a potato masher. Add the remaining ingredients, except the oil and mix until well combined.

    Shape the mixture into patties. Heat about two tablespoons of olive oil and cook each patty until the veggie burgers are done, about 3 minutes on each side.

    05 October 2012

    More breakfast treats

    As long-time readers know, my decision-making skills in the morning are not at their best.  I'm also on the road a lot, and often don't get up early enough to sit down and eat breakfast (today, for instance, I left the house at 5:50 with Verismo Trio to catch a flight to Boise.  Ugh.)  Therefore, I like to bake big batches of muffins and other slightly dessert-like treats and then I can just grab for something in the morning without having to think about it.  Without this crucial planning, I tend to wind up eating Doritos or leftover green beans for breakfast, which doesn't always go so well.  Here are a couple more reasonably healthy muffin recipes--they freeze well and can be defrosted overnight on the countertop or simply microwaved for 20 seconds in the morning.

    Island Muffins

    12 servings

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 teaspoons ground ginger
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    ½ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    2/3 cup packed brown sugar
    ½ cup coconut (or canola) oil
    1 8-oz. can crushed pineapple in its own juice, drained and juice reserved
    ½ cup pineapple juice from the can
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 cup finely grated carrot
    ½ cup raisins
    ½ cup chopped nuts, optional

    Preheat oven to 350°F.  Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.

    In a large bowl, combine carrot, vanilla, pineapple juice, coconut oil, and brown sugar with a whisk.  Stir in pineapple juice, then add all dry ingredients, stirring thoroughly to combine.  Scoop batter into muffin tin and bake 22-25 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

    *       *       *       *       *       *       *        *        *        *       *

    Lemon-Tahini Muffins

    12 servings

    1 tablespoon baking powder
    ½ cup sunflower seeds
    ½ cup raisins
    ½ cup milk (cow, soy, almond…doesn’t matter)
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1/3 cup canola oil
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
    3 tablespoons tahini (or you could use any other nut butter)
    ¾ cup sugar
    ¼ cup lemon juice

    Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.

    In a large bowl, combine milk, oil, tahini, sugar, and lemon juice; combine thoroughly.  Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.  The batter will be sticky and a bit on the thick side.  Spoon into the muffin tin and bake 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

    02 October 2012

    Greeley, CO has a new restaurant (don't go).

    Some lovely friends joined us for a meal at the newest restaurant in town, Pellegrini. It's run by a native Italian who has successfully been at the helm of the Italian restaurant in Fort Morgan for a decade.  Unfortunately, all four of us know how to cook something beyond instant ramen, and so we knew what went wrong.

    The wine was not bad.  Remind me to mention that again.  Although it is not difficult to find decent red wine with an Italian name, they deserve credit for that, at least.  In fact, the house chianti in a carafe (though it only serves 3 glasses) is perfectly pleasant.

    Pizza: the crust is thin and puffy, and quite crisp.  It was nice.  But the pizza we got was not cooked beyond the crust: raw cheese, arugula, and cherry tomato halves were haphazardly tossed on top, making it difficult to eat and disconcertingly incoherent.

    Risotto: the butternut squash and scallop had the cutest scallops!  They were like little dwarves.  But the flavor was missing entirely, and the texture was strangely watery yet dry.  Don't get this.

    Pasta dishes: the amatriciana sauce with prosciutto was pleasantly smoky, and the chardonnay-cream sauce with shrimp was pleasantly garlicky and comforting (aren't all cream sauces comforting yet a bit monotonous by the end?).  The problem was the pasta itself.  It was overdone, yielding a gluey, gloppy mess that sticks in the teeth and distracts from the otherwise well-made sauces.  I wondered if these dishes would have been better if we had made a big show of requesting al dente (and isn't that assumed?).  In Italy, it's before al dente, which is just right

    Extras: the side salad is bagged salad with no chopped vegetables and no dressing.  They provide balsamic and olive oil on the table, which is probably better than they would do with a dressing, but the instructions to "do it like in Italy" with vinegar, then oil and salt on top" is hardly authentic advice (well, I guess I don't know what they do in Sardinia).  The crusty white bread they brought to the table was warm and well-made; the olive oil with freeze-dried garlic sprinkled on top was not.

    Dessert: we opted for booze.  The port is smooth and clean, the limoncello a bit on the chemical side.

    It will come as no surprise that Greeley struck out again.  If you live in the area and haven't learned how to cook a basic risotto and a simple pasta dish you like, you really should.

    Oh right, the wine was fine.

    28 September 2012

    no-cook pasta sauces

    I crave pasta all of the time; even when I come home starving, I would rather wait for a pot of water to boil and cook some pasta than grab whatever is handy in the cupboard (usually tortillas).  However, it's nice to not have to turn it into a big project when you're in a hurry, very hungry, or just generally being cheap with your food.  Here are some of my favorite quick add-ins to turn pasta from a beautiful snack into a delicious meal:

    • Whisk together the juice and zest of one lemon, 1/8 cup of grated Parmesan, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt and pepper in a serving bowl.  Add freshly cooked capellini and serve.  
    • Combine chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped arugula, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl.  Add freshly cooked pasta and sprinkle with Pecorino cheese.
    • Drain a can of tuna and toss with pasta, vegetable broth, a bit of pasta water, olive oil, salt and pepper, toasted pine nuts, spinach leaves, kalamata olives, and a dash of lemon juice.
    • Add chopped bits of butter, grated Parmesan, and chopped herbs with salt and pepper to pasta shape.
    • Toss strands with fresh minced garlic, olive oil, lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt with fresh chopped herbs (I like cilantro). Grated some Parmesan cheese over the top.  
    • Toss the ingredients of a Caprese salad (fresh mozzarella, tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil salt, and pepper) with a cooked pasta shape like rotini or medium macaroni shell

    25 September 2012

    Scotsman's Gin and Tonic

    The name for this drink is derived from the original homeland of Hendrick's Gin, a lovely concoction that adds rose and cucumber essence to an otherwise very traditional, juniper-heavy gin.  It is a tad expensive, and I am very cheap.  So, I use New Amsterdam gin, which has a lighter, more citrusy flavor, and add the rose and cucumber myself.  I think the result is fresher, and it's certainly easy to make.

    Scotsman’s G & T

    Serves 1

    2 oz. gin
    2 slices cucumber
    1 scant tablespoon sugar
    1 teaspoon rose water
    Tonic water
    Lemon slice for garnish

    In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber with the sugar.  Add the gin, rosewater, and some ice and shake vigorously.  Pour into a glass over a couple of ice cubes, top with tonic water, and float a lemon slice on top.

    21 September 2012

    A Salvadorian Feast!

    Why?  I don't know...I thought it would be a good excuse to fried up some bread with things stuffed into it.  Doesn't that sound delicious?  I did get some help from my new friends at http://www.pupusarecipe.com with the basic technique, and the traditional accompaniments, salsa rioja and curtido, are two new staples in my fridge.  Enjoy!

    Black Bean Pupusas

    Makes about 36

    2 cans (15 oz.) black beans
    1/4 cup of vegetable oil
    2 teaspoon salt
    2 minced garlic cloves
    1/2 cup chopped onion

    In a blender, blend beans; add water a little bit at a time if too thick.

    In a large frying pan over medium heat,  heat the oil and saute onion, garlic, and salt until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Lower to medium low heat, add beans, and cook for about 1 hour, or until beans have thickened up. Let cool; beans should look like playdough. If beans are too runny, cook longer.


    6 cups of "Maseca" corn flour (used to make tortillas and tamale filling)
    4 cups of water

    Mix the flour and water in a large bowl, adding flour little by little mixing until the dough is plyable. Dough should be thick enough to make a smooth ball. If flour sticks to your hands, add more water.

    Make Pupusas!

    Preheat a flat pan on medim heat.  Pan is hot enough when drops of water bounce in pan.  Make a ball of dough the size of a plum and mold it to resemble a little "bowl".

    Put 2 tablespoons of mixture in the center of the "bowl".  Close the dough carefully making sure all the mixture is covered.

    Flatten with a tortilla press (can be purchased or improvise by using 2 plates). Make sure pupusa is no thicker than 1/2 cm.  Add a little canola oil to the  hot pan and cook for 4 minutes each side.

    Salsa Rioja

    Makes about 2 cups
    3 tablespoons olive oil
    1/4 cup chopped onion
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 Serrano or jalapeño chile pepper, chopped 
    2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 
    2 teaspoons dried oregano
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

    Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chile and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the tomatoes and oregano and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.  Puree the tomato sauce in a blender until smooth, adding a little water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste, stir in cilantro if using and serve.

    Curtido (cabbage salad)

    Serves 4

    1/2 head green cabbage, shredded
    1 carrot, grated
    1 quart boiling water
    3 green onions, thinly sliced
    1 cup white vinegar
    1/2 cup water
    2 teaspoons dried oregano

    Combine the cabbage and carrot in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over the mixture. Allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes; drain well. Return the cabbage and carrots to the bowl. Mix in the green onion, vinegar, 1/2 cup of water, and oregano. Toss until all ingredients are combined. Chill for 20 minutes before serving.

    18 September 2012

    Lavender Lemonade

    I stole the basic idea for this cocktail from Root Down in downtown Denver.  Like everything else I had that night, it seemed like a good idea that was executed in a rather bland fashion, and I suspected I could do it better at home.  And of course, I'm using my own lemon-infused vodka, which helps give it a little more oompf.

    Lavender Lemonade

    Serves 1

    1 oz. lemon vodka
    1 oz. lemon juice
    1 oz. simple syrup
    Four sprigs fresh lavender
    4 mint leaves

    Muddle the lavender and mint in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.  Add remaining ingredients and plenty of ice; shake vigorously and strain into a glass over fresh ice.