Archive for October, 2009

Huevos Rancheros = Bueno…Mac-N-Cheese = No Es Bueno

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment
Hi, my name is Karen and I am a cookbook junkie.  Yes, I know I have a problem and Borders has tried an intervention, but still I can’t help myself.   I could park my tush at our local library for hours and still not make a dent in their cooking section (Thank you Huntley Public Library).  It truly amazes me how many different styles of cookbooks that canvas shelves. 

After a recent visit, I picked up the Moosewood Restaurant New Classics Cookbook, a cookbook with mostly vegetarian recipes.  I think it was a good read, because I dog-eared just about every other page, looking forward to try a tasty recipe.  I guess I was so excited to try something while reading it at night, I found a breakfast dish to try. Although I could eat this anytime of the day we had this for breakfast…Huevos Rancheros.  It was a practical dish to make as well, since I had all the ingredients left over from taco night a few days prior.   The ingredients tasted so fresh and healthy, it really was good eats.  On a roll, I found myself intrigued by their Macaroni and Cheese recipe.  Especially by one ingredient: tofu.

I have to admit, I never buy tofu.  I tried it years back and could never get over the texture.  But this recipe called for the silken variety, one that has a creamy texture.   Dave’s eyes just about jumped out of his head when I said I needed to go to the store to buy some tofu for dinner.  You could tell he would be ready with that “I told you so” look, after eating his first bite. 

When I have made homemade mac-n-cheese in the past, the ingredients possessed enough fat, calories, and cholesterol that the FDA should have had a separate warning for the lethalness of the dish.  Reading this recipe though, the cheese was still there, but the heavy cream and butter were not.  Other ingredients in the dish were mustard, garlic and turmeric.  I think those were the culprits of this dish not quite working.  As much as my husband wanted to blame the tofu, we agreed he couldn’t, as it held up its role in the creaminess department.  I think I will play around with some ingredients and give this another whirl and post my findings at other time.  For now though here is a winner…

mex flag

Due to camera issues, I have no pictures of the dishes, so I thought you could just enjoy the Mexican flag instead.


Huevos Rancheros From Moosewood Restaurant
Serves 2
1 cup salsa
1 fresh tomato (we omitted the tomato and just used more salsa)
1 Tbs fresh cilantro
1 Tbs vegetable oil
4 corn or flour tortillas (6 inches)
4 to 8 eggs
Extras (we used all but the olives)
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/4 cup red onion or green onions
1/2 cup sliced black or green olives
1 avocado, diced
1-2 Tbs fresh cilantro

In a saucepan, warm the salsa, tomatoes and cilantro until hot but not simmering.  Keep warm on very low heat.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a heavy skillet on med-high heat warm a teaspoon of oil.  Add a tortilla and cook until just beginning to brown, about 30 secs.  With tongs turn over and cook for about 10 secs.  Place the tortilla on a large sheet of foil and repeat with remaining tortillas, adding more oil if needed.  Wrap the stack of tortillas and place in the oven to keep warm.
Fry the eggs in the skillet until well set on the bottom, then sprinkle with cheese (if using).  Cover the pan and cook until the eggs are set.  To serve, place a warm tortilla on each plate and top it with a fried egg and a generous portion of salsa.  Sprinkle of the extras of your choice.



Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs w/Rosemary Parsnip Mashed Potatoes

October 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Do you ever think from time to time, what you would take from your house, if it was on fire?  Aside from my family and dogs, really high on my list would be my binder of recipes.  It is a patchwork of pages of recipes from family members, friends, magazines, TV shows and websites.  I love the feel of it, all of the history and memories of meals it contains.  It is not the actual recipes that I think are important, it is the memories of each meal, from the first time time cooked, to the twentieth. wagner ware

Another item in my kitchen that contains memories, is a cooking pot that was Dave’s grandmother’s.  It is a slightly unique vessel  made by Wagner Ware made of thick shiny aluminum that reminds me of an old time zeppelin.    I am not sure of how they are constructed now, but one that is 50+ years old sure has withstood time and temperature.   In addition to meals, it also was used in canning, a tradition that Dave carries on today.   I can only guess at how many meals his grandmother cooked in this pot and how it gives me feelings of joy that it will be passed down to one of our children. 

A fantastic meal that goes from the stove top to oven in a pot like this is Zinfandel-Braised Beef Short Ribs w/Rosemary Parsnip Mashed Potatoes.  I have made short rib recipes before, but this one stood out to me, mainly because I have several bags worth of parsnips to use.   But after cooking this for the first time, this recipe stood out for its incredible taste.  It made a wonderful Saturday night meal and I would have to give this a 10/10 (restaurant worthy).


parsnips and onions

zinfandel-braised short ribs w/rosemary parsnip mashed potatoes

One key to making the meat really shine is to make sure you give the meat enough time to brown, searing it well on all four sides.  For the potatoes, I cut the amount of butter in half, as it seemed like a lot.  The family really enjoyed this meal, especially my oldest who was my little sous chef.   She took pride in helping cook the meal and we had a lovely afternoon in the kitchen, just the two of us.   Recipes and cookware can serve us up more than just a great meal, they can also nourish us with great memories as well.

Pumpkin Oatmeal to Pecan Beer…What I DIDN’T have for dinner

October 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Usually my blogs entries have been about dinner, and that’s fine and all.   But today I had an autumnal overflow of food beside dinner, so I thought it was worthy of a post.  I started the rainy morning with a variation of a recipe for pumpkin oatmeal.  I will NOT share a photo of this meal, mainly because it looks like something my dog would generously share with me after some bad kibble.  Esthetics aside, it was a great breakfast with some freshly brewed coffee.  While eating the oatmeal, pumpkiny goodness was still on your taste buds while sipping the coffee…taste combo was insane. 

This recipe serves 2
Pumpkin Oatmeal
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup milk or soy milk
1 cup water
1 cup rolled oats (not instant, old fashioned is good)
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or use 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4  tsp ginger, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8tsp nutmeg)
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs pecan or walnuts (optional)

In a medium saucepan, heat water, milk and oats to a boil.  Boil for 5 minutes.  Add pumpkin, spice(s) and brown sugar.  Top with nuts.  **For those with a crazy-ass pantry like mine, I like to cut the brown sugar to 1 1/2 Tbs and use the extra 1/2 Tbs with Turbinado sugar, for a little sumpthin, sumpthin.

pecan_abitaAfter that breakfast, the appeal of going to the gym to work out lost its luster.  I had a very busy day ahead, so I figured gym and I will cross paths again another day.   For dinner, going out and having someone else cook and clean sounded pretty good to me, so we went to a local, family owned place called Barley House.  Dave and I enjoy a good brew, and they have a ton on tap.  If you have read my previous posts, you understand my love of Abita beer.  I found they have a new seasonal out…Pecan Harvest Ale.  Wow.  All I have to say is wow.  For those of you who need a comparison, I found it similar to Bass, but with a little pecan flavor.  Truly the taste of fall was in my pint.  Perfect bookends to a wonderful autumn day.

Split Pea and Ham Soup

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment

My mom is a great cook, but she’s too humble to admit it.  Growing up, she cooked tasty, made-with-love meals every night, mostly of the meat and potatoes variety.  However, being young you don’t appreciate decent, home cooked meals until you go away to college and are subjected to the barbaric buffet of mystery meat and wiener winks.  So like everyone else, the salad bar, sugary sweet cereal and soft serve frozen yogurt seemed more appealing than funky named foods.

Back at home, Sunday nights were favorite of mine.  Instead of eating at the kitchen table, we got to eat…in the basement family room!   This once a week ritual revolved around watching Notre Dame football and 60 Minutes and eating together around the coffee table.  I know as children we have selective memories, but for some reason I can only remember eating winter-time meals in the basement.  My mom would go low key on Sunday, making simple fare like sandwiches, soup and crazy ethnic fare, like tacos.  One of my favorites, was Split Pea and Ham Soup.  As for esthetics, this soup ranks pretty low.  But the simple taste of only a few ingredients really warms up your taste buds.

split pea and ham soup 

Split Pea and Ham Soup
1/2 lb. ham
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 lb split peas – rinsed and drained
1 cup or more thinly sliced carrots
2 qts. water
2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

Melt 1 Tbp.  butter/margarine in a large pot and add ham onion. Sautee on low heat for 5 minutes.  Stir in water, peas, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and boil gently for 3 hours.  Add carrots and cook for one hour longer.


Carrots good, wiener winks bad.

Carrots good, wiener winks bad.

Honey, I Crusted the Walleye and Squashed the Cheddar Bread Pudding

October 13, 2009 2 comments
Honey -  in bear and non-bear form

Honey - in bear and non-bear form

I am an avid reader of non-fiction, especially related to food and the environment.  Just now, folks are realizing how much the two are intertwined and an avalanche of books on the topic are widely available.  This past summer, due to a recent fascination with bees, I swarmed over a book called Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis by Rowan Jacobsen.  The whole hierarchy of the bee hive is truly captivating and a bit like a soap opera.  Walking away from the book, I came to appreciate true 100% honey and made sure what I bought was local.

So, when it came time to make some honey crusted walleye, I was content in the fact that my honey was made in my county.  This is Dave’s recipe that he found in a fishing magazine.  He cooks this and the kids love it…because what kid doesn’t like sugar all over their crispy fish? 

honey crusted walleye and butternut squash cheddar bread pudding

Honey Crusted Walleye
1 egg
1 Tbs honey
1 cup panko or coarsely crushed saltines
1/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
4 walleye or perch fillet, skin removed
vegetable oil, additional honey for drizzling on top, lemon and lime slices

In a small bowl, beat egg and honey.  In another bowl combine panko, flour, salt, pepper.  Dip fillets into egg mixture, then coat with crumb mixture.  In a large skillet heat 1/4 inch of oil and fry over medium high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side or until easily flaked.  Drain on paper towels and drizzle with additional honey and garnish with lemon and lime slices.

Picked up some more butternut squash this week, for I was curious to try Butternut Squash & Cheddar Bread Pudding that appeared in November’s Bon Appetit.  The squash added some heft, the kale added a little nuttiness and of course cheddar cheese makes everything better.  I gave it a 7/10, but Dave was mighty impressed and gave it a 8.5-9.  After a brief discussion, the dish was voted to be Thanksgiving table worthy.  In our family, that says a lot.

butternut squash and cheddar bread pudding

For those of you interested in my strange book obsession, I am currently reading The Face on Your Plate: The Truth About Food by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson.  I do eat meat, although I am certainly eating less of it after halfway through this book.  We’ll see how things go when I get to the end. 

You Have a Friend Request: The Parsnip

October 12, 2009 3 comments

If there is anyone out there who does PR for vegetables(aside from Paris Hilton’s rep), I think you need180px-Parsnips-1 a new client…the parsnip.  I would consider the parsnip to be a quiet relative of the carrot.  Just as they are, they are okay, but when you roast them, they develop a personality all their own.  Kind of like that one friend you have…kind of quiet, but when they are in their element, they are fun and their true personality comes out.  Last fall I discovered the parsnip at my local farmers market.  A parsnip is like a white carrot with a somewhat earthy flavor.  When roasted, they become divine,  I bought them, sliced them and roasted them in the oven, along with some carrots and sweet potatoes. 

My two-year old, the same height as the parsnip!

My two-year old, the same height as the parsnip!

Knowing the awesome taste factor, I grew parsnips in the garden this year.  Since it is a root vegetable,I planted them near my carrots, not realizing that the tops would grow over 2 feet tall.  With this new knowledge, next year they will rotate to the back of my garden, as not to shadow my carrots as they did. 

I picked my carrots a couple of weeks ago, but parsnips are a little different in the fact that you really should wait until AFTER the first frost to pick them, as the frost helps develop their flavor. 

Living in the Chicago area, you are programmed to know the weather is as unpredictable as the Cubs, but one thing that has gotten me excited by this colder-than-average Chicago area weather…it’s parsnip pickin’ time!  So I after I picked some bad boys out of the garden, I defrosted a chicken from one of my fav local farms (Open Range Products).  Roast chicken with roasted root vegetables made the menu board.   On a colder day, this meal warmed the whole family up.  Now what do with the leftover chicken, as you know I don’t waste anything? I am thinking of a reader’s latest menu item…chicken pot pies.

roast chicken and roasted root vegetables

In the Waiting Room:  Honey Crusted Walleye

Butternut Squash Ravioli

October 7, 2009 2 comments

Monday morning I almost cried in my coffee.  I was on Twitter and heard the devastating news that Gourmet magazine was going under.  Of the several cooking magazines I receive in the mail, Gourmet was the one I could always read cover to cover AND get some stellar recipes.  I especially enjoyed Barry Estabrook’s in-depth stories about food and how other issues, like human rights, are often intermingled. The topic of food encompasses more than just recipes, and I truly enjoyed how Gourmet told those stories.

Coincidentally, I had already picked out this recipe for today from the Epicurious website, a recipe catalog from both Bon Appetit and Gourmet.  To celebrate the season of squash, I picked up a curvy looking butternut from the farmers market and tried out this new-to-me recipe for Butternut Squash Ravioli.  The creamy goat cheese really pulled the filling together.  I didn’t have any hazelnuts, so I used walnuts instead, but I did use fresh sage instead of the powdered sage.  Dave was a little skeptical while I was cooking, but when he sat down and ate, he was wowed.    Rating 8/10.

butternut squash ravioli

For those of you who do read Gourmet and have a favorite recipe from its archives, please pass it on.  Maybe we can all help create a “Best of Gourmet” to honor the latest victim of the decline of print magazines.  I love the internet, don’t get me wrong.  But nothing beats the excitement of seeing a mag in your mailbox and then curling up on the couch and devouring every page.   So for now, I will add my latest issue to my collection and keep it with the other worthy survivors of the age of technology.

Added October 7 2009, 12:45pm –  Does the last quote in this Chicago Tribune article by Judy Hevrdejs sound familiar?  Yep, it’s me.  I read the online article and added my comment and it made the follow-up piece.  Thanks Ms. Hevrdejs – I am truly honored to have my thoughts represented.