Category: Recipes


As you may have gathered from the frequency with which they appear in my recipes, I buy a lot of beets.  I’m not really sure why I buy so many beets–as a child I didn’t even like them!  (Though I can’t say that we had them often.  And seriously?  Stay away from the canned ones.  *shudder*)  Maybe I buy a lot of beets because they frequently look good at the grocery store and since they’re root vegetables, they have a longer season of availability.  Maybe I like the bright colors.  Maybe it’s going to Russia that did it.  (I do love a good bowl of borsch, hot or cold!)  Whatever the reason, I buy beets a lot.  And usually I put them with things like dill and goat cheese on the one hand, or citrus fruits on the other (see: Beets Romano or Beet and Kumquat Salad).  But this time, I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to do something creative with the bright red beets I had just acquired.  So I decided on a whim to send a tweet to Justin Warner, the winner of this season’s Food Network Star, curious to see if he’d answer me, and curious to see what rebellious beet ideas he might have.

And what do you know, he did answer!  In fact, he answered twice.  His first idea was to make a sparkling watermelon-beet borsch.  I had never thought to combine watermelon and beets, and the flavors melded surprisingly well.  And when you add club soda or sparkling water to the watermelon-beet puree, it fizzes up like a volcano in an elementary school science experiment.  (I’d highly recommend serving it as shooters–more fun that way!)

His second suggestion was to combine beets and white chocolate.  This was an idea I had to sit on for several days–I wasn’t sure what sort of vehicle I could use to bring these two things together.  I didn’t want to go the pure dessert route, but neither could I conceive of using white chocolate in a savory application.  (Maybe I need to watch more Chopped.)  But then it struck me–pancakes!  Chocolate chips go great in pancakes!  Shredded vegetables like carrots or zucchini go great in pancakes!  So why shouldn’t I put white chocolate and beets into a pancake?

Idea firmly in mind, I started searching for pancake recipes to compare and once I had that down, it was time to start cooking!

As it turned out, my shiny red beets were candy cane beets:

All shiny and red!

Look at the stripes!

For this recipe though, I needed to grate the beets rather than cutting them into chunks.  I could have tossed them in the food processor, but instead I decided to grate them by hand to get a finer texture (and a good arm workout!).  Interestingly, when you grate candy cane beets, they start of bright pink but quickly oxidize to a greyish-purple.  My pancakes won’t be winning any beauty contests, but they still taste good (despite my husband’s opinion that they look like old hamburgers!)

After grating the beets, you need to press some of the liquid out of them.  This is a key step.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP.  If you do, your pancakes won’t stick together in nice little patty shapes.

The saran wrap is a vain attempt to keep them from oxidizing.

Once I had the beets grated, I mixed up the rest of the ingredients for the batter, folded in the grated beets, and then folded in the white chocolate chunks.

Look at all the chocolate!

I fried them up in a little butter on my electric griddle and they were done!  With the sweetness of the white chocolate, you don’t even need any syrup!

Pancakes!

White Chocolate Beet Pancakes
(serves 4-6)

  • 2c finely grated beets (2-3 large beets)
  • 1c all purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • 2tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • 3tbsp canola oil
  • 1/4c buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4oz white chocolate (chips or chunks)
  • Butter for the griddle

Wash and peel your beets, and then grate them using either a box grater (to get really fine shreds) or a food processor (if you’re in a hurry).  Press out as much liquid as you can so your pancakes aren’t soggy.

Mix all of your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg) together in a bowl.  In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together all of the wet ingredients except the beets (oil, buttermilk, eggs, vanilla).  Once they’re combined, add in the beets, and stir so that they’re well coated.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix everything together until it’s just combined.  Finally, fold in the white chocolate chips!

Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to medium heat.  You want the butter to sizzle but not burn when it hits it.  Form palm-sized patties of pancake batter and fry them in the butter for 2-3 minutes on the first side, flip them, and let them go another 30 seconds to a minute until the other side is also golden brown.  You can keep the finished ones on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm until you’re ready to eat!

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I love my slow cooker.  It’s so nice to be able to just put the ingredients in it in the morning and have dinner ready and waiting for us when we get home.  And at 3.5 quarts, it’s plenty big enough to feed the two of us with enough leftovers for several lunches, and it’s also a great way to feed a crowd.  But when most people think about slow cookers, they think about things like meaty stews or pot roasts–obviously not going to fly around here!  However, slow cookers are also great for cooking beans.  And lentils, and chickpeas, and black eyed peas, and just about anything that you normally have to soak overnight and then boil for an hour.  Conveniently, these are all things that form the basis of a lot of Indian dishes, and so that’s what usually gets made in our slow cooker!

If you’re new to cooking Indian food (or even just to slow cooking it), I would highly recommend this book: The Indian Slow Cooker. So far all the recipes I’ve made from it have been delicious, plus it helps you get used to the cooking times required for different ingredients so that you can create your own recipes (which is what I’ve done here.)

So on to the evolution of this fusion curry.  I’ve been wanting to make my own curry paste for a while, and as I had a whole bunch of long green chiles from the farmer’s market, I decided now would be a good time to do it.  After a bit of googling, I discovered that the key ingredients for green curry paste are green chiles, lemongrass, kaffir lime zest, shallots, garlic, cilantro, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, salt, shrimp paste, and galangal.  Now for obvious (vegetarian husband) reasons, shrimp paste was out, but I figured that its primary contribution was salt, so if the paste tasted bland, I could always just add soy sauce (or more salt!).  Galangal was a bit more of a problem–I had nowhere to get it.  The Asian grocery store might have had it, and there are probably places in the city that sell it, but I was not about to go on a wild goose chase all over town.  So I decided to substitute ginger.  Yes, I know, it’s not authentic, but ginger tastes good, is readily available (I always keep some on hand in the freezer), and goes with all the other flavors.  So ginger it was!

The beginnings of curry paste

I ended up with rather a lot of curry paste.  Several cups of it in fact.  The first day I made it, I made a coconut curry on the stove with Thai eggplant, broccoli, kale, and soba noodles.  It…wasn’t that good.  I had tried simmering the vegetables in the coconut milk and curry paste but by the time the vegetables were reasonably cooked through, the coconut milk had reduced way past what I had wanted, and to be perfectly honest, I just don’t like eggplant very much anyways.

That's a lot of curry paste!

So the next day I decided to try again, this time in the slow cooker.  Using a little inspiration from the cookbook’s black-eyed peas recipe, I decided to go with a combination of chickpeas, black chickpeas (which are slightly smaller than the regular ones) and black-eyed peas.  If you’re making your own version, feel free to use whatever combination of dried beans you like.  After giving them a good rinse, I put them in the slow cooker along with four and a half cups of water and all of the leftover curry paste, plus some turmeric and a bit of brown sugar to provide a sweet note to counter the spice.  And then I just let it cook.  I set the timer for eight hours, and about ten minutes before the end I added a can of coconut milk and some vegetables–broccoli and green pepper.  I did end up adding an extra half hour to the cook time because the vegetables weren’t fully submerged so they didn’t cook as quickly as I had expected.  The end result?  Much better than making it on the stove and definitely delicious!

Fusion Curry

Thai-Indian Fusion Curry
(serves 6-8)

For the Curry Paste:

  • 5-10 peppercorns
  • 1tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion (or 2-3 shallots), roughly chopped
  • 1 small head of garlic (8-10 cloves), peeled and smashed
  • 7-10 stalks lemongrass, chopped
  • a 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 15 spicy green chiles (mine were about 6″ long. use more if you’re using the small thai chiles), de-seeded and chopped
  • a small handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • the zest of one lime
  • 1/2tsp kosher salt

Everything else:

  • 1.5c dried chickpeas, black-eyed peas or beans in any combination, rinsed in cold water
  • 4.5c water
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 13.5oz coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1 large head of broccoli, chopped (you can use the stems too!  just peel them first)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped

Toast the coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for a few minutes until fragrant.  Keep them moving in the pan so they don’t burn.  Then put them in a spice grinder with the peppercorns and grind them up.  Set the mixture aside.

Put the chiles, onion, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro, lime zest, and salt into a food processor* and buzz it up until you have a relatively uniform consistency.  Taste it, and adjust the ingredients if you need to.  (Be sure to have a glass of milk on hand to quell the burning afterwards!)  Add the ground up spices, and run the food processor a bit longer until everything is fully incorporated.  Set aside.

Measure out your chickpeas and/or other beans and give them a good rinse.  Check for very small rocks (which, despite what you may have heard, do not float!).  Put them in into the slow cooker and add 4.5c of water.  Add 1-2 cups of your fresh curry paste (depending on how spicy you want your curry to be), the turmeric, and the brown sugar.  Mix everything up, cover it, and set your slow cooker to high for 9 hours.  Go about your day.

After 8 hours, the beans/chickpeas should be fully cooked.  Give everything a good stir, and then add the coconut milk and vegetables.  Stir again, cover it back up, and let it continue to cook until the vegetables have reached your desired level of done-ness.  Depending on how well the lid of your slow cooker seals and how submerged the vegetables are, this could take anywhere from 10-30 minutes.  When they’re done, stir, serve, and enjoy!  Leftovers should keep well in the fridge for several days at least, and leftover curry paste will last a day or two.

*If you don’t have a food processor, you can do this in a mortar and pestle.  Just chop everything as finely as you can first, and be prepared to put some muscle into it!

I’m still working on getting the rest of the Portland posts put together, but in the meantime, here’s a guest post from my mom who wanted to share her Orzo Caponata recipe with you all.  Enjoy!

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I am always looking for recipes which incorporate fresh veggies from the garden or which are seasonally available at the market. Substitutions in a dish like this are easy, and if you don’t have some of the items in your pantry, just try substituting something similar. Any shape of pasta will work, and once the pasta is boiled (which can be done in advance) this is a one-pan-meal. I like to cut up all my veggies first, and lay out the pantry ingredients on a dinner plate so it is easy to add them into the pan in good order.

Easy Orzo Caponata

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium white (or red) onion, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, seeded and rough-chopped
  • 1 small (or Chinese) eggplant, peeled and sliced into ¼” semi-circles
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 12 large black Kalamata olives, halved and pits removed
  • 2 tsp. wild capers
  • 2 tsp. fresh finely chopped basil
  • 2 tsp. fresh finely chopped curly parsley
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
  • 2 Tbsp. Red wine vinegar (or to taste)
  • Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • Fresh grated Parmesan or other hard Italian cheese
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Option: toasted pine nuts

Boil a large pot of water, add salt and 2 – 3 cups of organic orzo pasta. Cook until just tender. I like to boil a big batch and use some for this dish and the rest for soup or a pasta salad the next day. Drain, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, stir and set aside.

Wash and prepare vegetables. I use organic and home-grown ingredients. If you use eggplant from a store, you may wish to salt the slices and let them sit to draw out any bitter liquid. Rinse and pat dry before using.

In large deep skillet, heat approximately 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add onions and celery and sauté until translucent. Add more olive oil if needed, then add green pepper and eggplant. Saute over medium heat until vegetables are tender-crisp. Reduce heat slightly. Add raisins, olives, and capers. Stir a few times. Add herbs, black pepper and pine nuts (if you wish). Stir until all ingredients are hot. Add tomatoes and red wine vinegar to taste. Stir. Add 2 cups or desired amount of cooked orzo. Stir. Grate cheese in to taste. Stir and cook over low heat until cheese melts and flavors meld. Add sea salt to taste.

Serve warm. Can be eaten the next day over fresh greens as a salad.

You guys, I’m so excited!  The husband and I are headed off on our honeymoon tomorrow to Portland, Oregon for 10 days of food nerd awesomeness!  We have both a spreadsheet and a customized google map marking out all the places we want to try–it’s going to be awesome!  (Of course we also have lots of walking and hiking planned…have to do something to burn off all the ridiculous meals we’re going to be eating!  Plus there are awesome waterfalls near Portland!)  I’m planning on tweeting pictures of the food (and anything else cool that we come across!), so if you haven’t followed me on Twitter yet, please do!  Or not if Twitter’s not your thing–don’t worry, I’m planning a round-up blog post about the trip when we get back.

And now on to today’s recipe!  I made this a couple weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to actually writing up the post yet.  But this might just be one of my favorite recipes I’ve shared here.  It has just the right balance of flavors…sweet/sour/savory/salty/bitter, with just the right amount of spice.  The key is really the lime juice at the end.  The lime juice takes what would have been a pretty decent dish to a whole other level of flavor.  So don’t leave it out!  Added bonus: this dish is ridiculously healthy, what with the quinoa and the beans and the kale and such.  But it doesn’t *taste* like health food.  It just tastes good.

Colorful, isn't it?

So without further ado:

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Stir Fry

  • 1/2c quinoa (uncooked)
  • 1.25c water
  • 1/2tbsp tamari
  • 2 carrots, sliced into discs
  • 1 daikon, sliced into discs
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can adzuki beans, drained (also rinsed if they contain salt)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • splash mirin
  • 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and freshly grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch lacinta kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2c sugar snap peas
  • freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and pick over the quinoa, then put it, the water, and the tamari into a pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour until all of the water is absorbed.  Keep an eye on it, both so it doesn’t boil over and so it doesn’t overcook.  If it finishes cooking before you’re done with everything else, take it off the heat, fluff it with a fork so it doesn’t stick and then set it aside.

Meanwhile in your largest skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and black pepper.  Stir periodically.  When the onion starts to get transparent, deglaze the pan with the mirin and add the kale and habanero.  When the kale starts to wilt, add the quinoa, green pepper, and adzuki beans.  Mix well.  When everything is heated through, remove it from the heat and add the sugar snap peas and a splash of tamari.  Pour in the lime juice, give everything a good toss to mix it all together and enjoy!

Carrot cake is delicious.  And I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s version (layer cake style) with great success in the past.  Seriously, it was one of the most delicious cakes ever.  And I think I still have some in the freezer somewhere.  I may need to go thaw that out…

Unfortunately, carrot cake also tends to be ridiculously bad for you.  Now I’m not one to turn down delicious desserts just because they’re unhealthy–far from it!  I love dessert and I have a terrible sweet tooth.  I don’t buy in to all the sugar-free, low fat, fake butter, weird chemical trends.  However, I’m trying to eat somewhat healthier of late and (more importantly) I’ve been itching to try my hand at baking experimentation for a while!  So I wanted to see if I could make a version of carrot cake that was still delicious and moist but didn’t contain a cup and a quarter of oil.

Now baking is finicky.  Unlike cooking, where you have a lot of freedom to adjust things as you go along, with baking, if you measure wrong or add the wrong ingredient, there’s no way to salvage it once it’s in the oven.  I was always a bit hesitant to try experimenting because I didn’t want to have a lot of good ingredients go to waste.  So I decided that I needed to do some research.  I compared four different recipes: Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, Chuck Hughes’ recipe, Alton Brown’s recipe, and the recipe from Advanced Bread and Pastry (which is definitely a book you’ll want to invest in if you’re serious about baking like my husband is!).  By studying the recipes, I got a pretty good idea of the ratios of the different types of ingredients involved in making a carrot cake delicious.  So then I started to contemplate substitutions.

The first thing I decided I wanted to include was some banana puree.  I figured that since, like applesauce (a common healthier substitution for oil), bananas contain pectin, it would probably work to sub it in for some of the oil.  I also guessed that I could cut the sugar in the recipe since bananas are naturally sweet.

The next thing I decided to include was crushed pineapple.  Again this is a naturally sweet ingredient, and in fact is commonly included in many carrot cake recipes including Chuck’s, so I figured I could get away with it.  (Also it meant that I got to have a big glass of pineapple juice to drink since I drained the crushed pineapple before mixing it in.  I love me some pineapple juice!!)

I also substituted a quarter of the flour with whole wheat flour.  I seriously considered doing more–and in retrospect I probably could have gotten away with it–but I was already not entirely sure how these were going to turn out so I didn’t want to press my luck!

The results of all this tinkering were surprisingly delicious.  The muffins were soft and moist, with sweet bursts of chewy dried fruit in the middle (I used dried cherries and raisins).  While I wouldn’t call these muffins a health food, by making the substitutions of the bananas and pineapple, I was able to cut the oil content from a cup and a quarter down to just half a cup!  And I really don’t feel like lost anything by it.  I definitely think I’m going to keep playing with this recipe–I’d like to create a version that reads more like a cupcake, and I’d like to find a way to make cream cheese frosting healthier (because I’ve been known to eat it with a spoon.  I am a cream cheese frosting junkie.)  But I hope that this convinces you, like it convinced me, that with a little research, baking is definitely something you CAN experiment with, and the outcome can be delicious!

*Originally these were meant to be cupcakes.  And really, there’s a very fine line between sweet muffins and cupcakes sometimes.  And if you want them to be cupcakes, all you really need to do is frost them.  (You could also eliminate the dried fruit if that would make them feel more cake-y to you.  Feel free to play around!)

P.S. If you’re wondering about the lack of pictures, it’s because the muffins were all gone before I remembered to take any!  My apologies!

Carrot Cake Muffins
(makes about 24 muffins) 

  • 1.5c all purpose flour
  • .5c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • .5 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp garam masala (or ground cinnamon if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 large eggs
  • .5c canola oil
  • .5c mashed overripe bananas
  • .5c crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1.5c granulated sugar
  • 3c grated carrots
  • .5c raisins (optional)
  • .25c dried cherries (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Line your muffin tins with paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the two types of flour, the salt, baking soda, and the spices.  Set it aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together oil and sugar.  Then whisk in the eggs, and when they’re fully combined, mix in the mashed bananas and the crushed pineapple.  Then mix in the grated carrots.

Once the carrots are incorporated into the wet ingredients, add the dry ingredients to the wet and start to mix.  Use as few strokes as possible – you don’t want to overmix!!  When about half of the flour is mixed in, add the dried fruit if you’re using it.  Mix a bit more until everything is just combined.  If you can still see a little bit of flour here and there, don’t worry about it.  It will be fine.

Use a disher or an ice cream scoop to evenly distribute the batter into the muffin tins.  Bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It might take longer–just keep an eye on them!)  Let them cool in the pans for a bit, and then when they’re cool enough, take them out and put them on cooling racks to cool down the rest of the way.  (This is especially important if you’ve decided to frost them.  If not?  They’re really good while they’re still warm!)

I love chicken pot pie.  Okay, really I love all pies, but most pies are dessert–chicken pot pie is your entree!  You could have pie twice in one meal and be totally justified!  Unfortunately, chicken pot pie is, for obvious reasons, not vegetarian friendly, and when you’re married to a vegetarian, it’s usually nice to cook things that both of you can eat.

Enter the vegetable pot pie.  All the creamy goodness and golden brown flaky crust, none of the dead animals.

You can really use any vegetables you want–potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, onions, sweet potatoes, celery, greens…it’s all good!  Just adjust your herb selection based on your vegetables and you’re good to go.  In my case I had some beautiful golden beets, a bunch of swiss chard and a couple of potatoes so I decided to go in a dill-heavy direction (I love dill!).  But play around!  The beauty of this dish is that you can make individual pies in ramekins, so feel free to make some different flavor combos.

Confession time: I did not make my crust from scratch.  I had Trader Joe’s puff pastry in the freezer and as I was short on time, I just slapped it on top of the pie instead of taking the time to make my own crust.  That said, Trader Joe’s puff pastry is quite delicious.  So don’t feel bad if you don’t make puff pastry from scratch!  It’s a little high maintenance, what with all the folding, pounding and rotating.  (If you do want to make it from scratch though, Alton Brown will teach you how!)

The third important part of making a good pot pie is the sauce.  This is what gives the filling the delicious creaminess you expect from a pot pie.  And the key to a good sauce?  A good whisk.  Whisk the flour and melted butter together to make a smooth roux, and then just keep whisking as you add the milk and stock.  This is how you will avoid lumps.  I’m also convinced the sauce thickens faster when I’m whisking, but I make no promises.

And with that, I give you my take on a vegetable pot pie:

Vegetable Pot Pie, fresh out of the oven!

Vegetable Pot Pie
(makes approx. 5 servings of pie with some leftover filling)

  • 3 medium beets
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • splash of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dried dill
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Give your beets a good scrub and then put them in a large pot of water and bring them to a boil.  Cook them until you can get a fork into the center of the beet without too much difficulty.  Drain, run them under cold water, and slip the skins off.  Then dice them and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, cube the potatoes (you can peel them if you like–I didn’t bother) and bring them to a boil in a pot of salted water.  (If your beets are already done, you can use the same pan to save on dishes, but get some fresh water in case there was any grit left on the beets).  Cook until just barely tender–be careful not to overcook them!   You don’t want potato mush!  Add them to the bowl with the beets.

Dice the onion and chop up the upper half of the chard stems and put them in a skillet with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  When the onion starts to turn translucent, add the chard leaves (cut them into bite sized pieces first) and a pinch of salt and let it cook until the chard is fully wilted.  A lid helps speed the process along if you have one that will fit your skillet.   Once that’s done, add it to the bowl with the beets and potatoes.  Add the dill as well.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  When it’s melted, add the flour and whisk until you get a smooth paste.  Then add the milk and stock, whisking as you go.  Keep whisking until the sauce starts to bubble and it thickens up.  Once it’s at a consistency that you like, take it off the heat and pour it in with the vegetables.

Toss everything together until the vegetables are well coated with sauce.  Give it a taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Take your puff pastry and lay it on a cutting board.  (If it was frozen, thaw it for 10 minutes first).  Cut it into pieces large enough to cover the tops of the ramekins with an overhang of 1/4-1/2 inch.  Or if you’re me and you’re geometrically challenged, cut a piece to fit your biggest ramekin and cover the other pies with random scraps.  And then only take a picture of the pretty one.

Set five small ramekins (or whatever odd selection of ramekins you have handy–there’s no reason you can’t make one big pot pie if you want) on a sheet pan.  You can line the pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup if you like.  Fill the ramekins with your vegetable mix.  In a small bowl, beat together the egg and tablespoon of water.  Brush it onto both sides of the puff pastry, and set the pastry over the tops of the filled ramekins.  Put it all in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  After that, check it every few minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Let the pies rest for a few minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Enjoy!

I made this recipe back at the beginning of January, but only now have I finally found the time to post it.  It’s a good, hearty bean soup, spicy but not overwhelming, and good for warming up on a cold winter’s day.  Y’know, if it’s still winter where you are.  It’s certainly not here!

Bean Soup!

For the beans, I used Trader Joe’s 17 bean and barley mix–a colorful collection of beans, split peas, and lentils including everything from baby lima beans to blackeye peas to pearl barley.  But if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, feel free to improvise and use whatever combination of beans, lentils, and split peas you like!  Do stick to dried beans rather than canned though, as dried will hold up better to the long cooking process.  (Plus they’re cheap to buy in bulk!)

For vegetables, I used onion, carrots and parsnips, which were what I had laying around in the bottom of the fridge.  You could certainly use other vegetables as well, such as celery or fennel…sweet potatoes would also go well with the spices in the soup–just dice them up into 1-inch chunks and add them at the same time as the beans.

Vegetables!

The strongly flavored spices in this soup contrast well with the relatively neutral flavors of the beans and lentils, as well as the sweetness brought by the carrots and parsnips.  But if you’re missing one or two of the spices, don’t worry–just use what you have.  And you can always adjust the flavors at the end.  But just to warn you, the cayenne pepper does give the soup a bit of a kick, so if you don’t like spicy food, just leave it out.

Spices!

 

Spicy Bean Soup
(serves 6-8) 

  • 1lb mixed dried beans, split peas and lentils (or 1 package of Trader Joe’s 17 bean and barley mix)
  • 3-5 medium carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2-3 medium parsnips
  • olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/3c white wine
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • dash of dried cilantro
  • dash of crushed red pepper
  • water or vegetable stock
  • salt to taste

Soak your bean mix in cold water for several hours before you intend to start cooking (or overnight).  Drain and rinse.

Put a large stock pot on the stove over medium heat.  Peel and dice the parsnips, carrots, and onion, and when the pot is hot, pour in a good glug of olive oil and add the vegetables.  Let them cook for a bit, stirring occasionally, until the onion starts to go translucent.  Then add the wine and bay leaf, and continue to cook until most of the wine has cooked off.

Now add your spice mix.  After stirring it in, add your drained and rinsed bean mix, and enough water or stock to cover everything by an inch or so.  Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the beans are cooked through and tender.  This will take about an hour, depending on how soft you want the beans.  Check the soup periodically while it’s simmering, and if it seems like a lot of the liquid has boiled off, add a bit more water.

When the beans are cooked through, taste the soup and add salt as necessary.  If you want it spicier, feel free to add another dash of cayenne pepper.  Serve as is, or topped with a dollop of sour cream.  Enjoy!

It’s been too long since I last posted.  My time has been consumed with far too many books and not nearly enough cooking.  But at last I have survived my general exams and have time to get back in the kitchen!

I have a couple new recipes to write about, but I decided that this one needed to come first so that I wouldn’t forget what I put in it!  It was very much a make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of dish.  I bought the kale and mushrooms knowing that I wanted to put them with white beans, but aside from that I had no idea where I was going to go with this!

mushrooms, celery and onion

I ended up going in a garlicky, nutmeggy, peppery direction–because there was so much kale, the spices didn’t always get evenly mixed in, leading to bursts of different flavors in different bites.  If you want a more uniform flavor, it would probably be best to add all the spices prior to adding the kale to the skillet.

Speaking of the kale, you could really substitute any leafy green you like in this recipe–swiss chard, beet greens, lacinta kale or red kale would all work well.  Another addition that might be nice is bacon–if you fried the bacon in the same skillet with everything else, you could omit the butter and just use the bacon grease.  Bacon makes everything better, and gets along well with both beans and kale, but alas, it’s obviously not vegetarian-friendly.  If you do make this with bacon, though, let me know how it goes!

the finished dish

Mushroom, Kale and White Bean Skillet
(serves 4)

  • 4 big handfuls dried white beans (or 1 can)
  • 1 large bunch of kale (or other greens), roughly chopped
  • 12-15 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2tbsp butter
  • splash of white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  thyme
  • oregano
  • garlic flakes
  • nutmeg
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Soak your beans overnight, or at least for an hour or two prior to cooking.  (If using canned beans, simply rinse them off and skip the next few steps.)  Rinse off your soaked beans in cold water, and then put them in a medium-sized pan with enough cold water to cover them by at least half an inch to an inch.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer them until tender.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t boil over!

When your beans are almost done, put your largest skillet on to heat up over medium heat.  Once it’s hot, add a glug or two of olive oil, and then add the onion and celery.  When the onion is transparent, add a good splash of white wine, the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and garlic flakes.  (This is not an exact science–just put in a good shake of each).  Stir everything around, and let the wine cook off.

While that’s going, slice up your mushrooms, and when the wine is almost gone, add the mushrooms to the skillet.  While those are going, you can wash and chop the kale.  Once the mushrooms have started to brown, drain off any water that was still in with your beans and add them to the skillet.  (Or add your canned and rinsed beans).  Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as well as the butter.  Once the butter is melted, add the kale.  It will seem like a lot of kale, but it will lose a lot of volume as it cooks down.

Once your kale is cooked down, make sure everything is mixed thoroughly and taste your dish.  Adjust the seasonings according to taste, take it off the heat, and top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Cookies!!!

One of the very first things I learned how to do in the kitchen was to bake Christmas cookies.  My mom and I would put on matching aprons, and I would help her measure out the ingredients, roll the cookies into balls, press them into cookie molds, and decorate them.  It was an annual tradition to flip through the old gas and electric company cookie books from the 60s and even earlier to decide which cookie recipes to make this year.

I always had a tendency, though, to pick out the unusual or “fussy” cookie recipes and so I often got vetoed in favor of the traditional chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, etc.  This year, though, armed with a functional kitchen of my own, two cookie sheets, two cooling racks, an assortment of mixing bowls and an antique pastry blender, I decided to search the internet for some brand new cookie recipes to experiment with.

When we found Aarti’s Garam Masala-Chocolate Gingerbread cookies we were intrigued.  My fiance, who loves Indian food, really wanted to make a garam masala cookie, but since I’m not a big fan of gingerbread, we googled around until we found these Indian spice cookies. They don’t look like much, but they’re soft and have a delightful spiced aftertaste.  Definitely a recipe to repeat next year!

Then I headed over to In Jennie’s Kitchen to see what kinds of cookie recipes she had and did I ever find some good ones!

I started off with these Chipotle Orange Chocolate Chip Cookies which turned out to be a great favorite everywhere I brought them. If you’re making them, do make sure you use actual chipotle powder though. I couldn’t find any, and thought that it would work to buy dried chipotles and just grind them up. But dried chipotles have the consistency of sun-dried tomatoes–they don’t willingly turn into powder! Not even with the chopping attachment on my immersion blender (don’t have a food processor) or the mortar and pestle! I did finally get enough sufficiently small pieces to (almost) comprise the half teaspoon called for by the recipe, but in the end you couldn’t really taste the chipotle in the cookies because it just wasn’t evenly distributed through the batter. But they were still good!

Chipotle Orange Chocolate Chip!

Then I found these Deep Chocolate Cherry Cashew Cookies. The dough looks like brownie batter. And they have dried cherries in them. You should make these cookies.

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew

I also made sugar cookies–nothing fancy about them, but I’m pretty sure that cut-out, decorated sugar cookies are the very definition of a fussy cookie.  But they are good!  I just flavored mine with almond extract, but if you wanted to fancy them up you could add in different flavors of extract, orange zest, or other spices!  I also frosted a few–I basically made a variation on one of the many cookie icing recipes out there using some homemade chocolate mint syrup that I had in the fridge from my mom.  But I think I need to work on my cookie icing recipe…it was way too runny.

And then we come to the ultimate cookie.  The combination of all of my most favorite dessert flavors (almond paste, cream cheese frosting, and chocolate!).  My own version of chokladbiskvier.

The most delicious cookies EVER!!

Now I had seen almond macaroon recipes many times, including in some of those old gas company cookbooks, but until I stumbled across this newspaper recipe contest winning recipe it had never occurred to me that a simple almond macaroon could become oh so much more!

Originally I had intended to make the recipe as it appeared in the article.  But, as you see, the buttercream filling calls for pasteurized egg yolks.  And I could not for the life of me find pasteurized egg yolks.  Or pasteurized whole eggs.  I did actually find pasteurized egg whites, but that didn’t do me any good.  I thought about pasteurizing my own eggs, but lacking a candy thermometer, it seemed like a recipe for disaster, and plus I wasn’t sure how the extra liquid you need to add to the yolks to pasteurize them would affect the buttercream recipe.  And while I was fairly certain that my eggs were not contaminated with salmonella, having once *had* salmonella, I was just not willing to take the risk of using them raw.

And then I realized–I’m not actually that huge of a fan of buttercream anyways…why not substitute my favorite frosting instead?  But then that created a whole new series of questions–would it adhere to the macaroons?  Would I be able to dip them in the melted chocolate without it falling off?  And what kind of proportions would I need?

I ended up using the almond macaroon part of the original recipe (it’s the same as pretty much every other almond macaroon recipe–almond paste and egg whites!) and then I made a half batch of this cream cheese frosting recipe from all recipes. Instead of dipping the cookies upside down into the chocolate, I just spooned it over the top. In retrospect I didn’t need all of the chocolate called for in the original recipe, and actually I could have just drizzled the chocolate to make the cookies prettier (and easier to eat), but they definitely tasted good!

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So if you’re looking to branch out and make some delicious and different cookies next year, give some of these recipes a try!  I promise they’re all tasty!  And if you don’t have a stand mixer or even a hand mixer?  Don’t worry!  All of the above cookies were made completely by hand using my trusty, wooden-handled antique pastry blender that I inherited from my grandma, a cheap yet sturdy whisk, and a wooden spoon.  All that’s required is a little muscle and a little patience.

(Though I must admit, I’m super excited to try out the new electric hand mixer I got for Christmas!)

Clockwise from top left: chipotle orange chocolate chip, sugar cookies, Indian spice cookies, a stray sugar cookie, and dark chocolate cherry cashew cookies.

(Or: How to make a healthy dinner when you’re tired and feeling lazy)

The other day I was torn by two conflicting desires.  On the one had, I was really in the mood for something healthy for dinner.  On the other, I was feeling really lazy and not in the mood for cooking.  Some time in the afternoon I decided to soak some black beans since they’re healthy, delicious, and practically cook themselves.  (If you’re feeling even lazier than I was, or you just don’t have the time to soak dried beans for an hour or two, you can cheat and use canned.  Just give them a good rinse before cooking them.)

Then I had to decide what to have with the beans, since a pot of beans by itself isn’t really a meal.  Then I remembered that I had a jar full of brown rice in the cupboard!  Beans and rice is a classic pairing, but the dish was still missing something.  I started digging around in the (very full!) freezer and discovered half a bag of frozen corn just waiting to be used up.  Perfect!

I mixed them all together, added some dried cilantro and chili powder, and topped the whole thing with a little grated cheddar, salsa, and guacamole, and dinner was complete!

Beans, rice and corn

And if you’re wondering…yes, the rice boiled over.  It always does.

Beans, Rice and Corn
(serves 5-6) 

  • 3/4c black beans
  • 1/4 bouillon cube
  • 1c frozen corn
  • 1c brown rice
  • 1/4tsp salt
  • pinch of chili powder
  • pinch of dried cilantro
Toppings (optional):
  • guacamole
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • salsa
  • sour cream
If you’re using dry beans, give them a good rinse, and soak them for an hour or so before you plan to begin cooking.  (If you’re using canned, just rinse them off before you start cooking.)  Put your beans in a medium-sized pan on the stove, add the quarter bouillon cube (more or less to taste, but I find them to be really salty), and add enough water to cover the beans by about 3/4 of an inch (less if using canned).  Over medium heat, bring your beans to a boil, and then reduce the heat, cover them, and simmer until they start to get soft.  Then uncover them and continue to simmer until the beans are fully cooked and most of the water has boiled off.  With dry beans, this process should take about an hour, maybe less if you like your beans a bit harder.  With canned beans it will take a lot less time since they’re already fairly soft and you really just need to heat them up.
Meanwhile, put your rice on the stove to boil, and try to time it so that it gets done at about the same time as the beans.  The rice I had takes a good 45 minutes to cook, so I started it not long after the beans went in.  Keep an eye on the rice so it doesn’t boil over and make a mess all over your stove!
When the rice and beans are almost done, thaw the corn in the microwave.  It doesn’t have to be hot–it will warm up plenty when you add it to the beans and rice–you just don’t want it to be frozen.
Once all three components are ready, combine them all in whichever pot happened to be biggest, and season with salt, chili powder, and cilantro to taste.  Top it with any combination of cheese, guacamole, sour cream, or salsa, and enjoy!