gnocchi wins!

23 01 2011

Sometimes you have to take a loss.

Yesterday, it was an epic tire moment just as we were departing for a much-anticipated birthday party.

Right now, it’s the aftermath of hours of gnocchi wrestling. Occupied, lost hours: meaning our laundry remains unfolded, dishwasher unloaded, my To Do list made no progress, and the kitchen looks a mess with at least 4 open cookbooks perched on various makeshift surfaces – dishrack, toaster, table, back of the sofa.

Our evening lurched off-course following the unfortunate directions for a seemingly simple pumpkin gnocchi recipe. Sounds delicious, right? And the picture was so tempting, all golden and steamy. It seemed like a perfect cooking adventure: simple ingredients, straightforward directions, and fast results.

Yet the dough proved elusive and un-doughish, so I kept adding flour, and then another egg, and then some grated parmesan, a pinch of nutmeg, and then some more pumpkin pulp (all of this following suggestions from additional cookbooks). And then… Well, I never achieved dough, just a large vat of orange batter. Too many hours after starting to make dinner, I managed to produce maybe two dozen lopsided dumplings, which Bebe staunchly refused to eat. Of course.

Our refrigerator now holds a ridiculous mass of heavily-floured pumpkin batter, and I am open to creative solutions. Any suggestions?


coconut lentils

4 01 2011

“consider the nutritional power of the LENTIL: high in fiber, low in fat, a good source of B vitamins, folate, magnesium, potassium. They’re easy to digest meaning that they don’t produce as much gassy by-product as other legumes. And of course, there’s the protein. Of all the edible plants, only soybeans contain more.”
-Alton Brown, Good Eats (season 10 episode 13 “Pantry Raid VI: Lentils”)

For lunch today (and probably dinner and possibly tomorrow’s breakfest – yes, it’s that good): coconut lentils with beef tenderloin on rice.

coconut lentils on rice

I first tried making this dish in June when one of my best friends came to visit. No pictures at the time, but I loved the recipe and tucked it away for making again in cooler weather. Coconut is great for summer but the thick soupiness of the dish is a star on my Winter Soups radar.

It’s so good, with a light mixture of spices and a good balance between sweet & savory. When my mother tried a spoonful today, she immediately declared it, “Yummm Comfort Food,” and ate a bowlful – this from a woman who has avoided all coconut-flavored dishes for more decades than I’ve been alive.

The base recipe is applicable for vegetarian & gluten-free diets, I just added beef tenderloin because we had leftovers that needed to be finished off. Originally I used red lentils, which are obviously not what’s in the picture above – really any kind of dried lentil is fine: green, red, or yellow.

Red Lentils & Coconut Milk
*adapted from a recipe in The Quick Recipe (The Best Recipe Series) by the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, minced
2-4 garlic cloves, minced (to taste)
1 Tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp garam masala (or 1/4 tsp each: cinnamon, ground cloves, ground cardamom, cumin, curry powder)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1.25 C split red lentils, sorted & rinsed
1.5 C unsweetened coconut milk (NOT coconut cream)
1/2 C whole milk or heavy whipping cream
2 C water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a medium-sized pot or saucepan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until clear, then add garlic and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Add sugar, spices and lentils, mix well. Then slowly stir in the liquids: first the coconut milk, then the whipping cream, and finally the water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook 20-30 minutes (45 minutes if making a larger batch), stirring occasionally and you may adjust flavor with a bit more milk, salt or brown sugar, according to taste. Remove from heat and let cool 10 minutes before serving. Lentils will break down a bit as they cook, resulting in a thick porridge-like consistency.

Can be served on plates over white rice or in small bowls with thick slices of bread. Both are nice.

If adding some kind of meat, cook the meat first in a seperate pan, and add it to the pot after the garlic.

You can also make this a day in advance and simply reheat it. The coconut flavor will become more noticeable over time.

spice it up

11 06 2010

Three recipes for you today! Two mine, one another’s*. All good for weekend feasting.

1. spicy chicken soup
2. arepas*
3. quick chunky guacamole

Our little pepper plant and tomato bushes are producing blossoms and wee green fruit. A few more weeks and we’ll be nibbling those yummy treats. Meanwhile, we’re enjoying store-bought peppers with spicy chicken soup.

spicy chicken soup

It’s a recipe that I cobbled together in early May, inspired by a friend’s brilliant chicken tortilla soup. We love this recipe – it should make enough for leftovers, but every time the pot is empty by the end of the night.

And the arepas? Well, the soup kind of calls out for a good stick of cornbread or something like it. But I make weird, untasty cornbread – every.single.time. Very sad.

However, I have found that arepas are a great alternative: also yummy, made from cornmeal, and did I mention yummy? One of the Test Kitchen cookbooks has a great recipe (I think it’s the all chicken cookbook), but if you’re looking for something online, sixoneseven has a delicious arepas recipe. Hers is based on a recipe by Mark Bittman.

Hope you have a great weekend, we’ll be back on Monday.

Spicy Chicken Soup (serves 4-6)

1 cooked chicken breast, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced thinly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C cilantro, chopped (or parsley)
1/2 can Rotel tomato & jalapeno (OR 1 tomato, diced AND 1/2 Tbsp jalapeno, diced)
1 Napa cabbage, chopped 1/2 wide strips
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 C black olives, sliced
2 C chicken broth
1 avocado, chopped
1 lime

1. Prep ingredients – if chicken breast isn’t already cooked, do that first (you can do it in the same soup pot).

2. In soup pot, heat oil on medium heat. Add sliced onion, stir, then add minced garlic. Cook until onion begins to clear, stirring often so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Add cilantro, stir quickly so that it wilts.

3. Add tomato and jalapeno, cook until tomato cooks down & released juices (3-5 minutes, or just 3 min with canned mix). Stir in sliced cabbage, mix well. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

spicy chicken soup - wip

4. Add spices, mix well. Repeat with chicken and olives. Stir in chicken broth, then cover and cook 7-10 minutes.

5. Before serving, add avocado pices and squeeze lime juice into soup. Stir and serve. Enjoy!

1. Parsley can be substituted for the cilantro – for some people, their taste buds register cilantro as a dirt/muddy flavor. I don’t remember the technical term.

2. The soup is a wee bit spicy. To adjust, add less jalapenos OR individuals can add a spoonfull of sour cream or a splash of heavy cream to their bowls. It adds a nice flavor.

3. Goes well with Corona beer, corn chips, and fresh salsa or guacamole. (Mmm…cerveza).

Quick Chunky Guacamole

2 avocadoes, diced
1 can Rotel tomato & jalapeno (OR 2 tomato, diced AND Tbsp jalapeno, diced)
3/4 C minced onion
1/2 C cilantro or parsley
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 clove garlic, minced

Prep all ingredients, then mix together in a bowl. Enjoy!

If not eating immediately, squeeze juice from 1 lime into the mixture, stir well, cover and refridgerate. The lime juice helps keep the avacoado from browning with extended contact with warm air. Can be made a couple hours in advance.

shrubbery + dill potatoes

9 06 2010

Bebe loves shrubbery.

shrubbery is best

In a contest of shrubbery VS. park-filled-with-young-children,

studying crowds

shrubbery wins, every time.

shrubbery is better

I think it’s pretty funny. Mr. P says it’s probably because we take nature walks with Bebe almost every day. Teach by example: we all love the shrubbery.

My waterchild also loves fountains, even if they are caged

caged fountain

or very old.

antique fountain

One of our local parks has a lovely lunchtime concert series in the summer. Lots of songs for Bebe to dance to, free balloons, costumed cast members from the town theatre, a farm stand, caregivers and their giddy children, and picnic blankets galore.

Our new picnic blanket is coming along like a snail but very beautifully. I am so excited! Will share picture updates later this week.

Here is some yumminess I put together from our farm stand harvest:

Dill Early Potatoes (serves 4)

1 dozen early potatoes (I think these were Yukons?)
1 Tbsp dried dill
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt* (according to taste)

dill early potatoes

1. Rinse potatoes well, cut out any rooty bits. In a large soup pot, bring water to boil on med-high. Add dill and potatoes. Cook 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

2. Remove pot from heat. Drain potatoes with a colander and set aside to cool (10-15 minutes). Meanwhile in the soup pot (still off the heat), add 1 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp sea salt. Stir a couples times so that the salt dissolves in the warming oil.

3. When the potatoes are dry and comfortable to handle, transfer from colander to a cutting board. Cut each potato in half and then in quarters (1 potato = 4 pieces). Put cut pieces back into pot, then add 1 Tbsp olive oil and another 1/2 tsp sea salt. Toss, make sure you get the potatoes on the bottom.

4. Can be served warm or cold. Transfer from pot to serving dish. Sprinkle with a wee bit of dried dill or a sprig of fresh dill (because it’s pretty). Enjoy!

1: Early potatoes are small – if you use large potatoes their cooking time will be longer. Just try to make sure they’re about the same size so that they cook evenly in the same period of time.
2: Use salt according to taste. Use LESS SALT if you decide to use table salt or flakey salt rather than sea salt – toss the potatoes once with just the mixture from the bottom, then taste to see if you want more salt.
3: Also good with these additions: diced scallions/green onions, bacon, kalamata olives, or feta cheese.

farm hopping + recipe

3 06 2010

It’s funny to think of how your life changes, like when planning a day of farm hopping or yarn crawling is just as much silly fun as when it used to be pub crawling or club hopping. Just as much fun, but profoundly different – and including the small logistical details of sharing the fun with your child.

So it’s finally that time of year again, with summer nearly here, when the local farms and markets begin calling to us each week like nectar calling to honeybees. I’ve been thinking that Bebe might be old enough to enjoy berry-picking, although he still shows a surprising indifference to strawberries.

Bebe and I began early with a scenic drive to a pretty pick-your-own berry farm: Mt. Olympus Farm in Ruther Glen, VA. We were sad to find the strawberry fields were done for the season – the last of the harvest was picked over the long Memorial Day weekend. The blueberry and blackberry p.y.o fields aren’t quite open yet, either.

But there were flowers and greenery to run through, other toddlers to peek at, and the farm stand was full of treats for us:

early peaches and blackberries,

farm hopping - fruit and berries

small sacks of young potatoes,

farm hopping - young taters

and fresh butter!

farm hopping - fresh butter

Next we visited our favorite farm to drop off a raspberry box that we borrowed last week. I was able to speak with the owner about their new CSA program – we missed the March/April sign-up period, but we’ll join next year. Bebe had more toddlers to play with, horses and one of the llamas to adore, and more veggie goodness: the farm’s trademark asparagus and some sugar snap peas.

farm hopping - yummy greens

On the way home (Bebe was ready to stop farm hopping and start napping), we stopped by the farmer’s market and picked up some more of the sweet carrots that we liked last week from C & T Produce, along with some salad veggies.

farm hopping - sweet carrots farm hopping - salad fixin's

Bebe loves broccoli & carrots, and he gobbled them up for dinner (well, this time he devoured the broccoli and threw the carrots in every direction except his mouth). Mr. P and I enjoyed a summer salad with rotisserie chicken. And superyum:

Mint-glazed carrots tossed with white rice (serves 2-4)

1 C white rice
1 Tbsp butter
2-3 mint leaves, sliced or shredded
*4-5 young carrots, peeled & sliced into 2 C of thin medallions
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp water
dash of salt

In a small pot, bring 2 C water to boil on high heat. Add rice, stir and cover, reduce heat to low and cook for 20 minutes or until done. (Or you can use leftover white rice that’s already cooked).

Peel & slice carrots. *Young carrots are best for this because they are tender and easy to cut – also, carrots seem to lose their sweetness as they get older/bigger.

Melt butter on medium heat. Add sliced mint and stir for 1-2 minutes, then add sugar and continue stirring until sugar is melted (another 2-3 minutes). Stir in carrots and a dash of salt, mix well to get them all coated with the minty syrup. Cook 3-5 minutes on medium heat, then then add water and reduce heat to low. Cover and let cook for 10-15 minutes.

By this time the rice should be done. Toss rice together with carrots, make sure to mix together well, and serve!

bake eat love

29 05 2010

Buckets of baking in our kitchen yesterday. Buckets. Hours of random, manic, fun baking.

Chive & garlic dinner biscuits (quasi-fail)
I should know better than to mess with a Test Kitchen recipe, because it is already super-tested and basically perfect. Yah. So my culinary detour (so small, really) turned into super soggy, sticky dough that was ridiculous/impossible to knead. More flour didn’t really help, nor more flour after that. Nor some more on the kneading surface. Nor did flinging bits of dough around with a shriek of disgusted frustration. Mrah!

The final consistency barely made it possible to cut the dough into biscuit rounds, and they came out of the oven as dense, chewy, floury ROCKS. That tasted like garlic and chives. Eh. Bebe ate one, out of loyalty and his love of all things bread. I ate one, just to show those biscuits who was boss. And the rest are still sitting in a glass jar by our table, smirking at me. Feh.

Lavender cookies (interesting)
An addition to my 100 Desserts in 2010 list. I meant to make these in March, but so many things went slant that month, so here we are in May.

lavender cookies

Recipe is from the King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion recipe book (yay for birthday presents from Mr. P!). It recommends 1-3 tsp of dried lavender, according to taste.

baking with lavender

I like lavender-flavored ice cream, tea, etc., so I used 2 tsp and found it a bit too much. Lovely smelling breath afterward, but I can’t eat more than 2 cookies at a time. Goes down easier with something to balance the intense flavor – like a bit of cream cheese or strong black tea. Definitely start with 1 tsp instead.

Raspberry buttermilk cake (super yummm)

Bebe has decided that raspberries are tasty. And plums. Two acceptable fruits added to our menu in one week, huzzah! Go Bebe.

yum berries

And he really loved them inside this cake, recipe courtesy of Smitten Kitchen.

raspberry cream cake

We loved it, too. I had some for breakfast, with my lunch, and also after-dinner tea. Now the cake is almost gone. So sad. So delicious. Lucky for us we still have farm-fresh raspberries available. Love that.

What kind of treats are you loving lately?

knit 3, bake 2

1 02 2010

I did a test run of the Saartje’s Booties knitting pattern with the yarn that I mentioned earlier. Um, yeah: bigger yarn + needles = booties sized for our 1-year old Bebe, not a newborn.

saartje 1

But very cute, and Bebe wears them around the house in place of socks. So I have to start again in fingering weight (as the pattern suggests, derf) with teensy-tiny needles. The booties are SUPERcute, but oy! there are a bazillion ends to weave in when you put the pieces together. After months and months of flirting with me, the pattern has finally revealed that it is not an instant-gratification project: quick to knit, yes, but very fiddly to assemble.

At least I finally got to use my new ball-winder

yarn winder - 1st try

and yarn-swift (a holiday present from Mr. P). The yarn swift was especially fun for Mama & Bebe. He loved all of the colors & spinning, I loved the speedy transition from pretty twisted skein to pretty ready-to-knit skein.

Unfortunately, I am afraid this kind of knitty efficiency will just enable more impulsive knitting projects, which always seem to tempt me around 10 or 11pm, “Hey, you can’t sleep? Start that cute project. You already have the perfect yarn…” I used to fend off this blandishment by the soothing (but very hour-consuming) hand-winding of a yarn skein into a knit-ready yarn ball. At the end of all that winding – and re-winding when I drop the ball a few times, I am usually tired and ready to sleep. Late night project successfully avoided. Now that I have swift & a ball winder in my life, we’ll see how much sleep I’ll lose to cute knitting projects…

And speaking of cute knitting projects – yay! – Bebe’s Lime vest is nearly done.

lime 2

Just need to add buttons, block it, and c’est fini. The pattern size is supposed to fit 12-24 month, but I think the length, width & especially armholes are snug. This would have fit Bebe perfectly at 9 months, which means I should have just finished it in September. Yar! Mr. P says it’s perfect, and Bebe doesn’t actually care. Those cables to me forever to learn & do, but I love them on Bebe.

More kitchen yumminess this weekend:

homebaked calzone

Thyme & rosemary calzones stuffed with ricotta & mozarella cheese, broccoli, garlic & prosciutto. Adapted from the recipes in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg & Zoe Francois. Delicious.

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