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Day by day, our children are taking over our lives with a force that eclipses their small stature.  First was the living room, invading the space with a pulsing tide of toys and other detritus.  Slowly their influence oozed into our music, favoring 90’s grunge rock for no explicable reason.  The most recent conquest was the meal plan.  Though they are both enthusiastic eaters of most dishes I serve, they now each direct the selection of one dinner a week.  What seemed benign at first quickly spiraled into many successive nights of pesto pasta, hamburgers, and spaghetti and meatballs.  My kids, who would eat anything, had a very short list of items they would actually request.  Luckily with some gentle encouragement, they happily incorporated some new meal variations that keep them (and their parents) satisfied.

Baked Chicken Flautas are crispy, crunchy flour tortillas wrapped around a moist, mildly spiced bean and chicken filling.  They hit on all of my children’s favorite notes: finger foods, beans, cheese.  They are tasty enough to appeal to the adult set as well.  Whip up some Chipotle Salsa for a dip to make these flutes really sing.  Feel free to change the filling around.  Not a fan of beans?  Leave them out and increase the chicken.  What to make them vegetarian?  Omit the chicken and add crumbled tofu or corn to the mix.  Really, anything you would throw in a taco can be rolled up in these tortillas and baked.  We ate these for dinner, but they would be great as a party appetizer as well!  So, how about you?  What are the family pleasing meals that grace your table?

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I would love to say that each jar of jam I make is a smashing success.  It would be great if each jar was filled with mouth watering combinations of fruits that strained our self-control through the winter.  In fact many of the jams filling our pantry do exactly that.  The Three Berry Jam of last July is long gone.  Each weekend we dole out the last drops of the Mixed Berry Syrup over yet another batch of Buttermilk Pancakes.  There is only one last jar of Strawberry Rhubarb to get us through until truly sweet strawberries start cropping up at the Farmers’ Market.  Yes, these are fantastic jams that I cannot wait to make again.  The same cannot be said for the poor Drunken Fig Jam I made (too much of) last summer.  They cannot all be winners.

Perhaps it is the brandy- I am not a big fan, or the need for a bit more acidity, whatever the reason, the fig jam did not fly off the shelves.  It got to the point when I began to consider the unthinkable- tossing the jam in favor of freeing up the precious real estate, when I discovered a recipe from the Gourmet Cookbook and adapted this recipe.

Drunken Pork Chops with Fig and Onion Marmalade is perhaps the perfect application of this drunken jam.  Pork pairs so beautifully with sweetness and fig is no exception.  For this dish, the pork chops sear off first, then nestle down into a saucy bed of well caramelized onions bathed in rosemary-infused brandied fig jam.  The dish simmers slowly as the pork cooks through and the flavors meld.  In the end, the pork is incredibly tender and awash in a deliciously sweet and savory sauce.  No ample stash of drunken fig jam in the pantry?  Just add some apricot or plum jam and a splash of brandy.

How do you cook with jam?  Feel free to link to your recipe below.

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Perhaps it is an unlikely combination, but bacon, Brussels sprouts, and blue cheese were actually meant to be together… on a pizza.  Believe me.  I am completely hooked on this pizza.  Inspired by a plate of fantastic wood-fired oven roasted Brussels sprouts from Jackson’s along side a tasty pizza with onions and sausage.  I couldn’t help thinking how delicious the sprouts would be on top of the pizza.  And while we were at it, why not throw in some bacon and blue cheese.  Oh, and it worked.  We love this recipe so much, we made it three weeks in a row!

Bacon, Brussels Sprouts and Blue Cheese Pizza is built on a base of Our Favorite Pizza Dough, though I subbed in 2 cups of whole wheat flour for 2 cups of all-purpose flour.  This makes for a nice hearty texture to the dough.  Next is a liberal brush of roasted garlic sauce.  Caramelized Brussels sprouts, slivers of bacon, chunks of blue cheese, and thinly sliced onion complete the toppings.  This combination is great for dinner, but I would also love to serve it as an appetizer.

This post was shared on Yeastspotting.

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LIfe is busy, no matter what, but this week everything seemed to be in turbo-drive.  It was the kind of week that left me yearning for more quick meals.  Meals that take only minutes to prepare, but still contain enough substance and flavor intensity to make an impact.  More meals like this one.

Penne with Kale, Feta and Olives is no ho-hum vegetarian pasta dish.  Kale itself is a flavorful green, but combining it with the briny olives and pungent feta make this dish a powerhouse.  Parsley, garlic, and lemon zest scatter over the top adding even more dimension to this simple dish. The recipe entered our rotation a few years ago when it was featured in Bon Appetit.  Any kind of kale works here, but I prefer Dinosaur or Lacinto Kale.  I reduced the oil recommended in the original recipe.  Feel free to drizzle olive oil over the top if you so desire.

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Twice a month, there is an after school garden work party at my daughter’s school.  Parents and their preschool age children gather to weed, seed, and harvest the bounty.  It is a delight to participate in this effort, a joy to see these young children so excited to work with AND eat fresh vegetables, but a bear to come home late with two overtired and hungry kids of my own.  Thank goodness for the crock pot.  With only 10 or 15 minutes of prep the night before, a delicious dinner can be ready to serve when I return home.

Lentil Wheat Berry Soup with Herb Pistou is a crock pot soup that satisfies on so many levels.  The earthiness of the lentils blend with the chewiness of the wheat berries.  The pork infuses a richness into the flavorful broth.  These ingredients stew in the crock pot all day and provide a guarantee that your house will smell divine when you return home, tired and weary from the day.  The herb pistou solves the one hangup I have with crock pot cooking.  While cooking food all day ensures tenderness and rich flavors, there is a tendency for colors and flavors to become too melded and for the heartiness to become dull or bland.  Inspired by Blue Kale Road’s Spicy Israeli Zhoug, I came up with a last minute swirl of fresh herbs and acidic lemon to brighten the entire soup.  Serve this soup with a crunchy salad and fresh bread.  It freezes and reheats beautifully.

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Last summer I was adamant that our house needed a pasta maker.   Scott and I made gnocchi years ago, but I had still never made rolled pasta.  For one reason (or many), I did not make the purchase: the pasta makers were more expensive than I imagined, our kitchen cabinets are full to the brim with an assortment of other cooking gear, it was sunny and I wanted to spend time swimming at the river with the kiddos instead of cooking.  Anyhow, thanks to Caroline at Grow it, Cook it, Can it for giving me the little push I needed to tackle the pasta project.  She is hosting Cook It! 2012, a month-by-month inspiration of sorts to tackle new challenges and try new techniques in the kitchen.  This month: fresh pasta.

Originally when I signed onto the challenge, I intended to buy a pasta roller, but again, not wanting to shell out the money and feeling a bit like sticking it to the man- “I don’t need your stinkin’ pasta roller to make fresh pasta at home” I rolled it by hand instead.  It was not easy.  The pasta dough comes together much like a pastry dough.  Beaten egg is poured into a seasoned flour, the trick is  to keep moisten the dough just enough to make it come together, but not so much that the dough is wet, which would make the pasta stick together.  After a knead and an hour or more to rest, my dryish dough was looking pretty good.  It had a mild sheen to it and though firm, gave gently as I firmly pushed it into disc.  My rebel spirit suffered as I rolled and rolled.  This was seriously hard work, I broke a sweat.  Perhaps a pasta roller does have a true purpose.  After rolling and flipping and rolling and flipping the dough, I reduced it to an 1/8 of an inch thickness and called it good.  Since the dough was still a little on the thick side, I opted to cut the pasta rather thin using a cutting board as a straight edge and a circular pizza cutter.

The recipe for Fresh Rosemary Linguine with Caramelized Onions, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese is adapted from The Greens Cookbook.  The caramelized onions are incredibly flavorful thanks to the addition of sage, rosemary, and bay.  I made a little extra and they tasted tremendous on an asparagus pizza.  The toasty walnuts add a nice crunchy texture and I love how the blue cheese partially melts lending a creamy funk to the whole dish.  Yum!  This dish is pretty rich tasting, so small servings were perfect with a crisp salad and crisp wine.  I will definitely be making more pasta in the coming months (hopefully with a pasta maker), but I am glad to know that it is possible to make a delicious dish without the purchase.  You could also make this easily with purchased pasta, but then you miss out on your kids saying, ” Mom, you MADE the pasta?!?!? YUM!”

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Breakfast Pizza

January 15, 2012

Pizza for breakfast is nothing new, but generally it conjures up images of bleary-eyed rifling through the refrigerator for something to eat after a late night.  Since we make pizza nearly every Friday night, it is not uncommon for someone in our family to nibble on a slice while waiting for the “real” breakfast to be served.  “Real” breakfast at our house is more commonly pancakes, waffles, eggs of some incarnation, or perhaps a muffin or scone.  (We eat our fair share of cereal as well).

Friday nights are usually pizza night at our house.  However last week, our Friday night plans changed at the last minute and all I could think of was how we could make pizza for breakfast instead!  The dough was already in the refrigerator, we have frozen pesto in the from last summers’ garden basil explosion, and a lug of bacon I could not pass up at the store the other day.   Pizza for breakfast was inevitable.

Breakfast Pizza earns its sincere place at the breakfast table because it boasts both eggs and bacon, quintessential breakfast foods.  On the tossed dough round, pesto creates a base of flavor and color.  The cheese is somewhat lightly scattered, to allow the egg to take center stage.  Cook the bacon until crispy before chopping it and tossing it on the pie.  The eggs are not cooked in advance, simply crack them on top.  I used four which seemed to fit nicely on both the pizza and our plates (there are four of us).  For those of you who do not equate broccoli with breakfast (like half of my family) feel free to leave it off.  I like any chance to toss veggies into every meal and our garden is overflowing with broccoli right now.  Like any pizza there are a million variations.  Pesto could easily be replaced with roasted garlic sauce, tomato-based pizza sauce, or simply a brush of olive oil.  Change out sausage for the bacon or leave them off altogether for a vegetarian meal.  Not into broccoli? Try asparagus in the spring or tomatoes in the summer.  Nothing even says you have to eat this for breakfast, it would be a great lunch or dinner as well.

This post is featured on Yeastspotting.

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