Monday, October 27, 2008

Hot chocolate

When I decided to avoid all of the artificial sweeteners without adding back much sugar, I wasn't excited about giving up hot chocolate. It's one thing that makes the winters more tolerable. I found a recipe in one of my no sugar cookbooks where you add 2 tsp. of unsweetened cocoa powder to 1/2 cup boiling water, and then pour in 1/2 cup milk. I tried it a few weeks ago, but the bitterness of the cocoa powder dominated (although it would probably be better with Dutch-processed cocoa). Today I did the same thing, but added some cinnamon and vanilla. It turned out really good - it's amazing how those two really make things taste sweet, and they completely hid the bitter taste. I'm excited that I discovered this just in time for the months and months of shivering!

Cooking up a storm

Last week I was incredibly busy and definitely didn't have time to cook.  Luckily I made do with leftovers until the weekend.  I finally had time yesterday, so I made up for the lack of kitchen time during the week.  I started off with my first loaf of homemade bread (sans bread machine).  I was reading Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads", and he seems to be the expert in the field.  About 95% of the recipes in his book use 100% whole grains (the other 5% are transitional breads for people who can't make the switch right away), and he's done the experiments to figure out how to work with the grains correctly.  I've perfected the sandwich bread in the machine, but it's somewhat hard to make other whole grain breads because there's not enough time for gluten to form.  He has some interesting ideas, so I decided that I'd try it out when I got the time.  I chose the Oat Bran Broom Bread (some of the book, and coincidentally this recipe, is on Google books).  It involves preparing two "starters" the night before, and it takes a while to make, but it's not a whole lot of work.  His descriptions were good enough for everything to work quite well.  And on top of that I got to try out my new pastry mat, which definitely made things easier and reduced clean-up time!  It's really good bread, although I'm not sure that it's miles ahead of the machine bread.  I can see myself making some of his other breads, but on busier weeks I'm sure I'll use the machine.

Oat Bran Broom Bread, from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads
While the bread was resting, I put on a pot of pea soup from a packet that Mom and I picked up at the farmers' market in Traverse City.  I added potatoes, carrots, and a smoked turkey leg (thanks to Mom's suggestion!) to the mix of peas and spices that was included.  Simply put, it's amazing.  The turkey gave it a wonderful flavor, and I'm happy that it made a ton because I don't think I'll get tired of it.  It was a perfect lunch today with a salad and some of my bread :)

Last night I was exhausted, but wanted to cook some spaghetti squash and kale (yep, I got some more at the market this week).  I decided to add some butter, parmesan, and pine nuts to the cooked squash.  It was good, but it could have used more parmesan (my hand got tired of grating).  Perhaps I'll grate more before I have the leftovers.  I found a good kale recipe from my new veggie cookbook - you boil the kale and add sauteed onions, garlic, and red pepper, and then pour some balsamic vinegar on top.  It's good, although it's hard to mess up with those ingredients.  So far my favorite kale recipe is still the one with the potatoes (with the bean and pasta one a close second).

Tonight I decided to make a bulgur pilaf to go along with kale leftovers and a piece of sauteed tilapia.  I used a recipe from the Cooking Light cookbook that adds onions, shredded carrots, currants (I didn't have any, so I used raisins), and toasted pine nuts to the bulgur.  I'm not sure I've ever had bulgur before, and I was nervous about the raisins (I almost left them out), but it's delicious.  The raisins go perfectly with everything else, and the pine nuts give it a good crunch.  The bulgur has a really good flavor, too, so I'm sure I'll keep a regular supply of it.

This should keep me going for a while!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tonight's dinner

Somehow I managed to have enough energy left after the marathon relay yesterday to remember to thaw a frozen chicken (pre-cut into pieces) that I bought at the farmers' market a few weeks ago.  I got home late today (which is becoming more of a rule than an exception), so I wanted something fast.  I decided to roast it at 450, and it only took about 40 min to cook.  I was originally going to put veggies around it, but I was too lazy.  It turned out juicy and delicious, and the little bite of the skin I tasted was perfectly crispy.  I needed something to put with it, so I pulled out the purple kale that I bought on Saturday and started searching for recipes.  I came across one for braised kale and red potatoes and decided to try it out.  I once again managed to set off my smoke detector (don't worry, it's now disconnected), but it was incredibly easy and tasty.  I love the red pepper kick with the kale (and believe me, it's got a kick).  And to top it all off, I had some frozen grapes and yogurt for desert.  It's the perfect ending to a stressful day...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The first soup of the season

I've been really busy lately, but I finally got around to making butternut squash and leek soup tonight with the squash from Al's garden.  I followed the recipe exactly (for once), and it's very good.  The first time I had butternut squash soup was my last year at Emory, and I've been meaning to make it ever since.  It only took 4 years, but I'm glad it finally happened :)

I currently have a small "pumpkin pie" (there's no crust) in the oven because I had some pumpkin left over from making pumpkin and apple bread this weekend.  I made it haphazardly - I threw pumpkin, milk, apple juice concentrate, vanilla, an egg, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in the blender and then put it in the oven.  I'm not sure that the consistency will be right, but I'm hoping the taste makes up for it.  

Thursday, October 9, 2008

recent concoctions

I finally got around to making my spaghetti squash on Monday.  I was originally going to do each half a different way, but I ended up putting spaghetti sauce (with tons of mushrooms, onions, and garlic) over the whole thing.  It's such a good substitute for traditional spaghetti, but I also can't wait to try it other ways.  I'll definitely be buying a few at the market this weekend.

Today I made more baked salmon, and I wanted a side dish that incorporated mushrooms and feta because I had some of both that needed to be used.  After searching around for a while, I found a recipe for Spinach and Couscous with feta.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly - I used a little less broth (and it was plenty), a little more spinach, and fewer mushrooms.  It's very good, but I'm glad I like oregano because it definitely doesn't hide.  It doesn't quite match up to the kale dish, but that's tough competition.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

My first kale experience

I've eaten a lot of kale, but I had never cooked it.  I was excited that they had some at the farmers' market this week so that I could try it out.  I found a recipe where you cook kale with pre-cooked beans (I used great northerns), sauteed garlic and red pepper flakes, and chicken stock, and then add in some pasta.  It was delicious (especially with the kick from the red pepper).  I definitely recommend trying this out.  It's so easy (the hardest part was remembering to soak my beans the night before) and is one of those recipes that's easy to tweak depending on what you have on hand.

I also tried out a new granola bar recipe yesterday.  This one is also from the Food Network, and it's as good (but quite different) as Alton's.  Assuming they freeze just as well, it will give me at least 2 good bar recipes that I can alternate so that I don't get sick of either.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Don't worry, I'm not dead...

Between catching up from being gone most of last week and starting a new project, this week has been fairly busy.  Luckily (note the sarcasm), things have already been screwed up with my project, so I have to wait a few weeks until I can do anything else.  But, in all of the mayhem, I managed to make some bread and cook a lot of veggies on Monday.  This batch of bread is probably my favorite so far.  I made the basic whole wheat recipe that I love, but added flax meal and walnuts (and used even less honey than before).  Unfortunately there aren't any farmers' markets open on Mondays (and I couldn't survive without veggies), so I went to the store across town that has decent produce and good prices.  I was surprised to find okra again, and you could pick out your own (so I spent a while picking out all of the small pods).  I steamed them, and it was delicious.  One of the things that I love about okra is that I don't even want any seasoning on it because it's so tasty absolutely plain.  I also got some lettuce, corn, peppers, carrots, and indian eggplant, all of which were good.  

I managed to make it to two farmers' markets on Wednesday (including one that I had never been to before), but unfortunately the selection is getting pretty slim.  They have winter squash, some beans, some greens, potatoes, apples, and a lot of stuff shipped in from warmer climates.  I got some green beans, lots of apples, kale, and some meat (a pork shoulder roast and ground turkey).  Last night was the perfect night to cook the pork; I was exhausted from being on my feet all day at the Obama rally, so I came home, rubbed the pork with some spices, put it in the oven, and collapsed on the couch for a few hours.  I didn't quite cook it long enough so that it's falling off the bone (I was too hungry by that point), but it was delicious.  I also found a recipe for my green beans - pan roasted with a soy/vinagrette/garlic sauce.  It was quite an adventure because there was a little bit of water that dripped into the pan when I was adding the beans, and the pan was hot enough that it created smoke everywhere and my smoke alarm went off for a while.  In all of the craziness, I forgot to add the sesame seeds on top, but they were still very good.  I'll probably make them again (but I'll be a little more careful next time).