Category Archives: Food Stuffs

a cheery nog

Has it really been a whole week since I was last here with you all? It feels like its been barely more than a day. Earlier this week I started working as a research assistant at a local hospital, which I do at night after I’m done at my current job. It’s also finals week at school, and my course’s final exam is next Tuesday. I feel like I’m in a time warp and somehow ended up here…

I would post pictures of some gorgeous muffins or healthy dinner plates, but over the past few days when I’ve been eating it’s been whatever was:

a. within arms reach,

b. seemed to be food-like; or

c. easiest and quickest.

Nothing special or especially healthful, which is why I won’t be sharing anything interesting tonight. I did, however, get to have a quick moment of holiday cheer this evening. I’m not sure this is what Sam Adams intended his taster glass to be used for, but whats not to love about a shot of nutmeg & nog?

Cheers!

Leave a comment

Filed under Food Stuffs

whole wheat apple muffins

These past few weeks I have been going to the gym before work. It’s been cold, windy, and exceptionally dark when I wake up. None of these things make it easy to keep going, especially since I am the last person who would be called a “morning-person.” Even as a joke. It’s just not funny.

I’ve been known to groan and make guttural noises when woken up. I pull covers over my head, squeeze my eyes shut, and curl my body up tight like a cashew. Mornings and I are definitely not friends.

But – like all things – you get used to change over time, and I’m slowly (and reluctantly) becoming a morning person.

I can’t believe I just wrote those words, in reference to myself.

I wish I could say that I am naturally able to gracefully adapt to all new and challenging situations. Instead, I owe everything to these muffins.

They are hearty but still light, and have a rich flavor and texture from the whole wheat. They are healthy but still delicious, and they are full of giant baked apple chunks that remind you of summer and fool you into thinking you’re eating pie for breakfast (which I wholeheartedly support).

These muffins save my mornings. Instead of ignoring the alarm, the thought of one of these makes me unfold from my cashew pose, lift the covers off my head, and shuffle (eyes still closed) into the kitchen. They really are that good.

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

Adapted from King Arthur Flour and Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large apples, peeled and cubed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour muffin pan and set aside for later.

Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-size bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes fluffy, and then add the egg. Thoroughly mix in the egg, and then add the yogurt gently, not over-stirring. It doesn’t need to be completely mixed in. Add the apple cubes, mixing only enough to distribute the apples.

Spoon the batter into the muffin pan, making sure to pack the batter down into the bottom. The apple chunks can sometimes keep the batter from falling into the bottom of the cups, which can leave you with odd-shaped muffins. Personally, I love muffins of all shapes and sizes… but this also helps with even baking.

Bake for 10 minutes, and the turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes, being sure to check with a toothpick to make sure they’re cooked in the center.

Enjoy!

4 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs

draw-string pants.

My favorite time of day is when I can finally take off my work clothes, or my weekend clothes, and make the much-desired change into sweatpants. You thought I was more glamorous than that, didn’t you? Sorry to disappoint. I’m sure you can understand, though, especially with the holiday season being upon us.

Of the entire year, there is not a single more gratifying day for donning sweatpants than the night of Thanksgiving after the dishes have been put away, the cranberry sauce packaged, and after guests have left (or before, if you’re desperate). I’m currently lying supine on The Man’s sister’s couch, post-Thanksgiving Meal II, and I could not be happier to be in my favorite sweats. We are about to have Thanksgiving Pie II in a bit, but I’m ready for it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Food Stuffs

andean bean stew

I was feeling a little anxious last night about today’s eating-fest holiday. I could already feel my stomach stretching (angrily) from the meals to come, but I was hungry for dinner – horror of all horrors. I was craving something hearty and full of flavor, but I couldn’t fathom ruining my appetite for Thanksgiving dinner. Clearly I take this holiday very seriously.

This bean stew is chock full of vegetables, both the delicious starchy kinds and the more healthful palate-cleansing kinds. It is adapted from a Chilean stew, which uses corn instead of the quinoa that is used in this dish. The base of the stew is made from pinto beans, quinoa, onions, tomatoes and squash. It is a stew to feel good about, especially knowing that your Thanksgiving dinner is safe.

Andean Bean Stew

Adapted from the New York Times, Recipes for Health

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tbs oregano
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

This recipe starts early – either the night before you plan to cook, or 6 hours prior. Take your pinto beans and place in a tupperware with 2 quarts of water. Cover and let set for 6 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to start the stew, drain the beans and place them in a large pot. Fill the pot with water until it covers the beans by about 2 inches, and add about a teaspoon of salt. Bring the pot to a boil, and then drop the heat to a simmer. Skim the foam off the top of the water, and then cover and let simmer slowly for an hour, or until the beans are tender.

When the beans have about 20 minutes left to cook, put your olive oil and chopped onion in a medium-size pan, and cook the onions until see-through. Add your minced garlic, and cook for another 3-5 minutes. To the onions, add your chopped tomatoes, including the liquid. Cook down until the liquid is almost gone, then add the mix to the pot of beans. Add your squash cubes, quinoa, bay leaf and oregano to the pot of beans, and taste for sat & pepper. Let simmer for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add your fresh basil. Let the stew stand for about 30 minutes while covered, and then serve.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

1 Comment

Filed under Food Stuffs

israeli couscous with pancetta, spinach & golden raisins

I ate this meal three nights ago, and I’m still salivating at these pictures. This couscous recipe is one of the most flavorful, colorful and interesting dishes that I have had in a long time. Excitement and anticipation are key ingredients in most aspects of life – and this recipe has both.

The couscous is studded with golden raisins that are re-hydrated, making them plump and flavorful. Their tangy sweetness adds serious depth to the dish’s flavor. I found myself hoping that I would get a raisin in each bite.

To balance the sweet, soft raisins I added pan-fried pancetta for a salty and savory crunch. Pancetta is very similar to bacon, and if you cook with bacon, you know that bacon makes everything better – this was no exception.

Israeli couscous has a very mild flavor on it’s own, and has to be cooked al dente so that it has some bite to it. It’s easy to over-cook, which would leave you with pillowy flavorless grains of pasta … not so desirable. This recipe calls for a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, fresh thyme and chili powder. This powerful combination added tart and spice to the already complex flavor. This dressing was so good that the next time I make this, I may double the dressing, and turn it into a reduction – rockin’ good.

After everything finishes cooking, you add fresh spinach while it’s hot, making the greens wilt and almost melt into the couscous. This dish really has it all. For food superlatives, I would absolutely give it “most likely to succeed.”

Israeli Couscous with Spinach, Pancetta and Golden Raisins

Adapted from a recipe in The Boston Globe (Oct, 2010)

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 lb. pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 4 cups spinach
  • 3 tbs lemon juice
  • 4 tsp fresh thyme, diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder

Place golden raisins in small bowl and cover with hot water – set aside. Fill a large pot of water, and place on high heat. Allow this water to come to a boil while you are working on the dressing. When the water comes to a boil, add the couscous (at any time) and cook for 6 minutes, or until al dente.

Place olive oil in pan, and cook pancetta until crisp, roughly 10-15 minutes on medium-low. Remove pancetta and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour out the oil + drippings, leaving 1-2 tbs in the pan. Add your 8 cloves of sliced garlic to the pan, cook on medium-low until golden brown. Remove from pan – leaving the oil in the pan – and place on paper towel-lined plate.

Add to the oil your thyme and chili pepper. Keeping the heat on medium-low, stir in the spices for roughly one minute. This will allow the oil to really soak up and meld these flavors together. Turn off the heat, add your lemon juice, and stir together – this is your dressing, which you will add to the couscous – set aside.

Drain your couscous and add the dressing, tossing lightly. Drain your raisins – they should be plump and soft by now – and add them to the couscous. Add the pancetta, and you may add as much of the garlic as your would like. Add the spinach, and toss the entire mix together. Cover the couscous so that you keep in the heat, which will allow the spinach to wilt. After about 5-10 minutes the dish is ready to serve.

Enjoy!

Leave a comment

Filed under Food Stuffs

faux-thanksgiving

This past weekend I visited my mom, and was greeted by these:

She had a plan. And it involved multiples of two.

I thought I was seeing double.

But then there was only one cat, so I knew I was doing alright.

She thought it was time for me to learn how to roast a turkey (in time for Thanksgiving) so she bought two smaller chickens to be our practice fowl – one for her to demonstrate and one for me to do on my own. She specifically bought six-pound chickens. Why? I was a six pound baby. I think she’s sending signals to my reproductive organs.

The recipe that we used to roast our chickens is my grandmother’s recipe. Every family has a way of cooking their Thanksgiving turkey (which is better than the way your family does it) so it was my turn to learn the way. We started with fresh herbs from the garden, which is probably the last we will get from the garden this season.

We chopped the herbs to make a garlic-herb butter (secret ingredient spoiler).

The secret family weapon… stuffing butter pads under the skin, and nesting one on top of each chicken breast. We only make well-endowed birds.

About an hour and a half later, we pulled this gorgeous creature out of the oven. The whole house smelled amazing – a mix of garlic, herbs, chicken, and all the vegetables we had been roasting and cooking in the meantime. At one point we ran outside and took a deep breath of fresh air, just so that we could come inside to smell everything more intensely.

This was, in all honesty, the moistest chicken I have ever eaten. I couldn’t believe how little effort (sorry grandma) went into this recipe, and yet how juicy and tender it turned out. Check out this spread:

Now, check out The Man’s spread… not too bad for my first faux-Thanksgiving!

Roasted Chicken

  • 6-lb chicken
  • 1 stick butter (softened)
  • handful of sage, rosemary, thyme
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • salt & pepper
  • olive oil

Set your oven to 375 degrees. Roughly chop your herbs, slice your garlic, and mix both with your stick of room-temp butter. Take half the herb butter and form it into a patty, then take the other half and make a second patty. Be sure not to handle the butter too much or it will melt and be difficult to work with. At this point you can put your butter in the fridge to make sure it is hardened.

Remove your chicken from any wrapping, and discard bag of giblets. Rinse the bird thoroughly, and make sure to pluck any remaining feathers. Using a wooden spoon, separate the skin from the breast on each side, leaving the skin attached down the middle of the bird. Insert one butter patty under the skin on each side. Place the bird in a baking dish, and drizzle with olive oil. Using your hands, spread the oil evenly the top, and then liberally salt and pepper. When your oven is heated, place the bird in a middle rack and let cook for about an hour and a half.

When done, look to see if the wings and legs have relaxed, instead of being tight to the sides as they were when the chicken was raw. We could tell ours were done because the meat was falling off the bone. Let stand for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

3 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs

chicken soup

In my post-camera-catastrophe fog I completely forgot to write about what I did with those heavenly, bite-size cipollini onions! (Pardon the oversight.) Here’s a hint: two words, the first word starts with a “c” and sounds like “hicken.” The second word.. ah jeez, it’s in the title.

On the way home from the Open Market my mind was racing with my favorite onion-y dishes, and I fell upon a classic: chicken soup. I have never made it before (*gasp*), it’s fall-perfect, and it would nicely feature the cipollinis. Don’t they look like little marshmallows when they’re naked?

Another reason that I wanted to make a soup is because The Man and I have been exploring recipes that can be made in bulk. We need more meals that will last for a few days, to make sure we’re: a.) eating, and b.) eating well, when we get busy with work and school. Anything we can cook in our giant 3-gallon pot is best, and chicken soup just made sense. We made our soup even bulkier by adding (literally) bowl-fulls of veggies.

I really enjoyed making this soup because it was a test of my cooking skill – one that I’ll have you know I failed, initially. All legit cooks know how to make a good broth. Prior to this soup I had no clue, and I’m honestly not convinced that I have a clue even after. Our chicken soup came out a little watery, despite hours of cooking, and cheating with a little store-bought broth (just a little). In the end, we decided to strain out the veggies and chicken, and continue to boil the broth on it’s own until it became thicker and more flavorful –> jackpot. The soup turned out delicious.

This soup is best served with a healthy grating of parmesan reggiano. It’s an intense cheese that adds serious depth in flavor. It takes a while to cook, but homemade chicken soup is worth the wait. As you can see, we started cooking in the afternoon, and finally sat down to eat in the dark. Regardless, it was chow-worthy.

Chicken Soup

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups cipollini onions
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1 whole chicken (2-3 lbs)
  • 6 whole carrots
  • 3 cups chopped kale (raw)
  • 1 bag of celery stalks
  • 2 tbs oregano
  • Pasta (any kind)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Grated parmesan reggiano for garnish

Prep veggies: mince garlic, chop onion, peel cipollinis (keep these whole), chop celery & carrots.

Sautee garlic and large yellow onion in pan on medium heat, until see-through. Add half of the non-green vegetables (cipollinis, carrots & celery) to the pot, and cover. Cook for about 30 minutes on medium heat until about half-cooked. These vegetables will melt down to add flavor to the soup. Save the other half and the kale to add later.

Once the vegetables are about half-way cooked, take the giblets out of your chicken & discard (ew). We did keep the neck and added it to the soup, at The Man’s insistence. I could handle that much. Put the chicken in the pot with the vegetables, and then fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken. (In the future I will use a fowl. These are adult – “worldly” – chickens, which hold up to cooking better than younger chickens). Cook for about hour, keeping the soup at a simmer, and stir periodically. Make sure to check your chicken, using a meat thermometer, to see if it is cooking appropriately. Adjust your temperature as needed.

After about an hour has passed, remove the chicken from the pot. Using a knife & cutting board, remove all meat from the chicken. Cut meat into bite-sized pieces (or larger if you like!) and add back into the pot. Make sure not to put any skin back into the soup, otherwise…it won’t be nice. Finally, add remaining vegetables and kale to the pot, along with your oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until vegetables are cooked through. Serve hot, over pasta (cooked separately) and garnish with parmesan.

If you end up with a watery soup like we did at first, strain out the veg + chicken and cook down the broth like we did. The key to a thick and flavorful broth is really cooking down that first batch of veggies. The longer you cook that part, the better. Of course, this is coming from a chicken soup novice, so please defer to your aunts’, grandmothers’ and mothers’ tips – and then let me know what they are.

Enjoy!

3 Comments

Filed under Food Stuffs