Monthly Archives: November 2009

Russian Cabbage Soup

Russian Cabbage Soup

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving.  We went to my mom’s and spent a few days with her and all of my siblings (there are 5 of us).  It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of food.  After four days of eating nothing but pies, cookies, brownies, whipped cream, mac and cheese, stuffed shells, and of course, turkey with all the fixings, Marc and I were feeling a little like we had food hangovers.  Arriving back home, we both felt the need to detox a little.  For us, this means eating things like soup, fresh bread, and lots of vegetables.

Soup ingredients

Personally, I couldn’t stop thinking about cabbage soup.  While that may seem like a strange thing to obsess about, I just knew that it was exactly what I needed to cure my food hangover.  I went searching on the Internet to find myself a recipe.  I started with one of my favorite food blogger sites, Smitten Kitchen.  Indeed, there was a very interesting recipe for cabbage soup.  Using that as my starting point, I found a few other recipes with interesting components that I incorporated. 

Chopped vegetables

The result is a hearty and delicious cabbage soup with tomato, celery, carrots, onion, and (obviously) cabbage.  Beef and beef stock add meaty flavor while the inclusion of sauerkraut and some white wine vinegar add a pleasing tanginess.  The vegetables are cooked but still retain some of their texture.  While this soup takes a little while to make, it is really easy.  Served with some crusty bread, it is the perfect meal for a wintery Sunday dinner… and an excellent way to rebound from the holiday gluttony. 

Simmering soup

Russian Cabbage Soup

Ingredients:

4 cups beef stock

4 cups water

1 lb ground beef

3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon marjoram

3 whole allspice berries

1 cup sauerkraut plus 2 tbls juice

1 medium potato, diced

2 medium carrots, finely diced

3 ribs celery, finely diced

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cups fresh cabbage, thinly shredded (about half a large head of cabbage)

1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained (or 1 lb fresh tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped)

2 tbls white wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

In a large soup pot, bring stock and water to a boil.  Add bay leaves, marjoram, and allspice.  Break the ground beef into small pieces and add it to the pot.  Turn the heat down and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about one hour.

Remove the ground beef and set aside.  Skim off most of the fat from the stock.  Add the sauerkraut and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add the potato and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the cabbage, carrots, onions, celery, and tomatoes (including the juice) and simmer for 20 minutes.  Return the beef to the pot and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the sauerkraut juice, the vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. 

To serve:

Serve hot with additional vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and/or sour cream as desired.  Serves 6-8.

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Filed under Dinner, Meat, Recipes, Soup, Vegetables

Sweet Potato Muffins

Sweet Potato Muffins

Do you know the Muffin Man?  No, I don’t either.  Personally I am somewhat ambivalent about muffins.  I think that many times, they try to be too much – cake, breakfast pastry, quick bread – but end up not being particularly good at any of it.  The monstrous muffins that are routinely served at coffee shops are too often dry or crumbly or dense without much flavor.  When I eat a muffin, I like it to be moist and tender with a light sweetness that doesn’t overpower my tea.  

Mashed sweet potato

Muffin batter

 

 

 

 

 

When I came across this recipe for sweet potato muffins, I knew that I needed to try them.  In addition to being really simple to make, the sweet potato adds moistness and flavor while the mix of white and wheat flours and flax seed meal adds a nice nuttiness.  Plus, since we are heading out on a (long) road trip for Thanksgiving, I wanted to have some easy and delicious road food to keep us all full and happy.  These muffins fit the bill nicely.

Ready for the oven

The texture of these is great.  They are light and springy, not dense and dry.  They are sweet enough that Thing 1 loves them, especially the mini ones which she refers to as “baby muffins”, but not too sweet for me or Marc.  So if you are boiling up some sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving, boil one extra and make these muffins for the morning after. 

Mmm, freshly baked

Sweet Potato Muffins

Adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

1 large sweet potato (about 1 1/3 cups mashed)

1 stick of butter (salted or unsalted), softened

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal

1 tbls wheat bran

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is preferable)

1 tsp salt (use only if you are using unsalted butter, otherwise omit)

cooking spray or muffin papers

4 tsp sugar mixed with 1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon for topping (optional)

To Make:

Peel and cube the sweet potato.  Place in boiling water to cover and simmer until tender when poked with a knife, about 15 minutes.  Drain and mash.  You should have about 1 and 1/3 cups of mashed potato.  Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, flax seed meal, wheat bran, baking soda, spices, and salt (if using).

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the butter until light in color.  Add the sugars and cream until light and fluffy.  Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Next add the milk, vanilla, and sweet potato and mix until well combined.  The batter will look slightly curdled.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined.

Fill prepared muffin tins about three-quarters full.  Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar if desired.  Bake in the 350 degree oven until a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean, about 14 minutes for mini muffins and 18 minutes for regular ones.  Let the muffins cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

To Serve:

These muffins are great as breakfast or as a snack.  They are particularly nice for kids because they taste yummy but at least hint at healthiness.  The original recipe says it makes 12 muffins but they must be the huge ones you get in coffee shops because I made 12 regular muffins and 12 mini muffins from the same amount of batter.

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Filed under Baked goods, Breakfast, Recipes, Vegetarian

Meat Pie

Meat Pie

The other night we were trying to figure out what to have for dinner.  We had some ground beef, a few vegetables from our last CSA delivery, and the desire to do something a little different.  It was a cold and rainy day so both of us were in the mood for something warm and homey. 

Veggies sauteing

Marc suggested Shepard’s Pie but I generally find it to be pretty bland and uninteresting.  I thought about making a version of pot pie using a piece of puff pastry as the top crust but  Marc wanted a bottom crust too.  We finally struck an interesting compromise… use shredded potato cooked until crispy as the bottom crust, a savory meat filling in the middle, and a piece of puff pastry as a top crust.  Bake the whole thing in a cast iron skillet so there isn’t a lot of clean up and you have yourself an easy weeknight meal.

Meat filling

Ready for the oven

 

 

 

 

 

The meat is mixed with Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, and fresh dill and parsley.  Chopped carrots, onions, and garlic add additional flavor and vegetable goodness.  Dried mushrooms add depth and savory flavor.  Puff pastry tops the whole thing with a light and flaky crust.   Feel free to spice up the meat with other herbs, spices, or hot sauce if you want.

Ready for dinner

Meat Pie

Ingredients:

2 1/2 tablespoons butter

2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 lb ground beef

1/4 ounce dried wild mushrooms

8 oz beef stock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh dill

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (or 1 anchovy fillet finely minced)

1 tbls Worcestershire Sauce

salt and pepper to taste

3 medium potatoes, peeled

1 sheet puff pastry, remove from the freezer at least 30 minutes before you are ready to use

To Make:

Bring the beef stock to a boil and add in the dried mushrooms.  Remove from the heat and set aside while the mushrooms rehydrate, about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350F. 

Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan and add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the garlic, onion and carrot.  Cook until starting to soften and brown, about 10 minutes.  Add in the ground beef, cook until no longer pink.  Add in the beef stock along with the mushrooms, Worcestershire Sauce, tomato paste, and anchovy paste.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the dill, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

Meanwhile, working on a lightly floured board, roll out the puff pastry sheet to cover the pan by 2 inches around.  Trim the puff pastry into a circle (leaving that 2 inch overhang).

Grate the potatoes with the coarse side of a box grater.  Using cheese cloth or a clean kitchen towel, squeeze the water out of the grated potatoes.  Melt 1 tablespoon butter in an oven safe pan (we like cast iron) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Add the potatoes and use a spatula to press the them into an even layer in the bottom of the pan.  Cook 7 minutes.  Flip the potato over to the second side and turn off the heat. 

Spread the meat mixture on the potatoes.  Place the puff pastry over the meat and tuck the edges in.  Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, until the crust is browned and the filling is hot.

To Serve:

Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.  Serves 4.

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Filed under Dinner, Meat, Recipes, Vegetables

Smoked Trout Spread

Smoked Trout Spread

Alex, I’ll take “Fish” for $800.

A:  This fish is sustainable and starts with a “T”.

Q:  What is Trout?

Mmm, smoked trout

Great.  I love sustainable.  I love smoked.  And sometimes, I love easy.  This spread is all of those things.  Easy to make, easy on your conscience, and nice and smoky.  Who knew that spending time at the car dealership would be a good thing?  I found the base for this little gem flipping through “Bon Appetite” May 2009 while waiting for my car.  This is a handy dip to have in your recipe box.  It comes together in about 5 minutes and is sophisticated enough to serve for a fancy party (if that is your thing).  It tastes delicious spread on crusty bread, on crackers, or even with pretzels.

Trout fillets, ready to chop

To boot, I was looking for something like this.  Now that I have this spread, I’m ready to be invited to any party where people appreciate good food.

Spread Ready to Mix

Smoked Trout Spread

Adapted from Bon Appetit, May 2009

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

5 oz smoked trout fillets, skin removed

Additional dill and minced red onion to garnish, if desired

To Make:

In a mixer, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth.  Add the green onions, sour cream, dill, Old Bay seasoning, and hot sauce.  Beat to combine.  Coarsely chop the smoked trout fillets (minus any skin or silver lining), add to the mix, and beat lightly.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

To Serve:

Serve cold or at room temperature.  Makes about 2 cups.  Yes, it’s that simple.  Yes, it’s that good.

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Winter Squash Lasagna

Winter Squash Lasagna

 When we blog, we post recipes that we make that are yummy.  Obviously, we don’t post everything we make, we look for dishes that have something interesting or special about them.  This dish is very, very special.  After dinner tonight, we both agreed that this twist on the classic lasagna is one of the most delicious things we have made in quite a while.

Squash ready for roasting

We got the idea for this dish while browsing through one of our Thanksgiving-themed cookbooks.  The author shared a recipe for a pumpkin and sage lasagna that sounded tasty, but was pretty fussy and complicated.  It called for frying sage leaves and for thickly slicing a seeded and peeled pumpkin and sauteing it before making the lasagna.  With two small children in the house, we don’t really have time for that kind of work.

Mashed squash and ricotta

So we decided to go rogue with the recipe and make it our way.  Our way includes a roasted winter squash whose flesh is folded with whole milk ricotta and flavored with dried sage.  Things get simplified with no-bake lasagna noodles.  It also adds mozzarella cheese to the mix and tops the whole dish with a creamy bechamel sauce that is flavored with bay, thyme, parsley, and black pepper.  Once baked, the lasagna is rich and creamy with balanced sweetness from the squash and savory from the cheeses and herbs. 

Construction

Middle layers

         

Ready for the oven

Fresh out of the oven

         

 

 

 We recommend that you head immediately to your nearest market and purchase one of the many delicious in-season winter squashes currently available and make this dish tonight.  I think I might have to go look for leftovers.

Winter Squash Lasagna

Ingredients:

2lbs winter squash such as pumpkin or butternut (do not use spaghetti squash), cut in half and seeded

1 lb ricotta cheese

2 tsp dried sage

2 tsp kosher salt

3 cups milk

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

6 whole peppercorns

3 tbls butter

1 large clove of garlic, minced

3 tbls flour

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 package no-boil lasagna noodles

8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese

To Make:

Roast the winter squash in a 400 degree until tender, about 50-60 minutes (depending on the type of squash).  Remove and let cool.  Meanwhile, pour 3 cups of milk in a saucepan.  Cut a square of cheesecloth (about 8 inches) and place the bay leaf, peppercorns, thyme, and parsley inside.  Gather up the corners to make a packet and tie tightly with twine.  Add the herb packet to the milk and heat over medium heat until gently simmering.  Simmer for 2 minutes (do not let it boil), remove from heat, and let the milk steep for 30 minutes.

Once the squash is cool, scoop out the flesh and place it in a large bowl.  Mash the squash with a potato masher.  Add the ricotta cheese, sage, 1 tsp of salt, and ground pepper to taste.  Fold the mixture together and set aside. 

To make the bechamel sauce, use a 3-4 quart saucepan and melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and saute until just beginning to brown (about 2 minutes) stirring constantly.  Whisk in the flour and continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the raw flour taste is cooked out, about another 2 minutes.  Remove the herb packet from the milk (discard it).  Slowly pour the milk into the butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly.  Once all the milk has been added, continue to whisk constantly until the mixture has thickened, about 5 minutes.  Season with remaining tsp of salt and ground nutmeg.

To Assemble:

In a 9×13 casserole, spread 1/3 of the bechamel sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Place three lasagna noodles crosswise on top of the sauce.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture and 2 ounces of the mozzarella.  Place three more noodles in the dish.  Top with 1/3 of the squash ricotta mixture, 2 ounces of the mozzarella, and 1/3 of the bechamel sauce.  Repeat the second layer (noodles, the remaining squash, mozzarella).  Top with remaining three noodles, the rest of the bechamel sauce, the rest of the mozzarella cheese, and the grated parmesan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake uncovered for another 30 minutes and the top is browned and bubbly.

To Serve:

Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.  Garnish with chopped fresh sage leaves with desired.  Serves 8.

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Filed under Dinner, Pasta, Recipes, Vegetarian

Apple Cider Butter

Apple Cider Butter

So, what do you do when you get an email from one of your favorite U-pick fruit farms saying that they are closing for the season and offering buy-one-get-one 1/2 bushels of apples? If you are anything like us, you hightail it over to the farm before the apples are gone.

Fresh apples

That is just what we did last Friday. We put Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the car and drove up to Northborough to pick 40 pounds of apples. It was a little strange because the day was gray and cool and the orchard was almost empty… it didn’t feel like a typical apple picking outing. The apples, however, were fantastic; large, sweet, crisp, and delicious. I think Thing 1 ate five of them while we were picking.

Apples chopped and boiling down

Now that we have all these apples we have to figure out what to do with them. We usually cut and freeze slices for winter apple pies, make applesauce, and eat lots of them.  This season however, we are starting with apple butter. I have never made apple butter before but I really wanted something that went beyond our classic apple applications. This recipe uses fresh apples and apple cider to make a delicious apple butter that isn’t too heavily spiced. If you decide to make this fall treat, make sure to review the appropriate canning techniques, which can be found here.

Jars ready for processing

I followed the recipe pretty much as listed with some minor adjustments to the spices. The most important change I made was to keep the cores and peels on the apples for the first boil. I then used a food mill to remove the skins, seeds, and cores. The cores have a lot of pectin which helps the butter thicken nicely. However, when I did it this way I had no where near the required 12 cups of apple puree, despite using the 6lbs of apples called for in the recipe. Therefore, I have adjusted the recipe posted below to reflect my yields.

Apple Cider Butter

Adapted from Freshpreserving.com

6 lbs of apples, mixed varieties, quartered

2 cups apple cider

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground allspice

6-7* (8 ounce) glass preserving jars with bands and lids

To Make:

Combine apples and apple cider in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft, about 30 minutes. Using the fine disc of a food mill, puree the apples, discarding skins, seeds, and cores. Measure 8 cups of apple puree.

In a clean stainless steel saucepan, combine the apple puree, sugar, and spices and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture reduces, thickens, and holds it shape on a spoon.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready to use (do not boil, especially the lids). Ladle hot apple butter into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove bubbles and wipe rim. Center lid on jar and apply band until it is fingertip tight.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes (adjusting for altitude). Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. For any jars that do not seal after 24 hours, either reprocess or place in the refrigerator and use.

* The total number of jars will depend on how thick you like your butter

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Carrot Pudding

Carrot Pudding

From the first year that my husband and I met, I have gone to Thanksgiving dinner at his house.  His mother is an excellent cook and between her, his grandmother, and his sister (a trained pastry chef), they put on a pretty mean spread… with enough food for 20 people.  My family lives further away and since the traffic around Thanksgiving is usually pretty awful, we have historically taken the easy route and headed to dinner a few towns over. 

Cooking carrots

This year, we are switching things up.  Marc’s parents are headed to North Carolina to spend Thanksgiving with his sister.  That means that we are packing up the girls and the car and making the six hour drive to upstate NY where my mom lives.  I am pretty excited because it means that we will get to have a big ol’ dinner with my family (all 7 of us) and because it will be our chance to do some Thanksgiving cooking.  Marc and my mom have struck a deal… if she watches the girls, he will cook the whole meal.  I think that both parties are pretty excited.

Pudding all mixed

In honor of this momentous occasion, we have been tossing around different menu options and trying out new recipes.  This recipe for carrot pudding is an unusal, and delicious, way to cook carrots.  The original recipe was more savory but we modified it to make a dish that is elegant in presentation and sweet enough for dessert.  Not only is this recipe unique, it is simple to put together and can be done ahead of time to help spare the overworked Thanksgiving cook.

Ready for the oven

Carrot Pudding* 

Adapted from The Thanksgiving Table (2001 edition)

Ingredients

5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 tsp fresh lemon juice

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup milk

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

To Make:

Place the carrots in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat until carrots are simmering, and cook until they can easily be pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes.  Drain and cool slightly.  Puree the carrots with the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a 2-quart baking dish with 1 tbls of the butter and set aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the remaining butter, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Beat until smooth.  Add the carrots and beat until well blended.  Add the milk and eggs and mix until smooth.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

Bake, uncovered, until the pudding is puffed and lightly browned and the center is firm to the touch, about 50-60 minutes.

To Serve:

Serve immediately with a dollop of softly whipped fresh cream.  Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

* To make this dish more savory: increase the salt to 1 tsp, add 1/4 tsp ground black pepper and 2 tbls grated yellow onion.

You can cook and puree the carrots up to two days in advance.  Cover and refrigerate, then bring to room temperature before making the pudding.  The whole pudding can be assembled several hours in advance.  Cover and refrigerate, then remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before baking.

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Filed under Dessert, Pudding, Recipes, Side Dish, Vegetables, Vegetarian