November 22, 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Our fridge is nearly empty, which is perfect because we're leaving at 8am tomorrow.  Amazingly, I was able to use nearly everything from our recent CSA box, however somehow we ended up with 3 open bottles of wine in the fridge.  One of which was white, so tonight I made butternut squash risotto for dinner.

I made just a couple minor changes to a recipe from Simply Recipes, cutting the squash larger than called for and using dried chives.  This is definitely one of our favorite recipes!

Printer-Friendly Recipe
6-8 cups vegetable broth
5 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dried chives
salt and pepper
The chef at one of the cooking classes I recently attended stressed how important it is to add hot stock when making risotto and using a wide pan.  In the past, I haven't heated my stock thinking it couldn't be that important, but I have to admit that tonight's risotto was very creamy...perhaps hot stock does help?

November 20, 2011

Kale & Sweet Potato Soup

It's hard to believe that it's almost Thanksgiving.  I'm doing my best to empty out our fridge because we leave for South Dakota in just a couple of days. 

Tonight, I made my favorite kale/swiss chard soup which used up carrots, swiss chard, kale and sweet potatoes.  I also threw in celery, which isn't called for and wasn't great in the soup, but I wanted to use the last of it.

I love making soup this time of year, when it's cold and windy out.  I listened to Christmas music while I was cooking tonight.  I know some people think it's too early, but I love it :) 

Sunday nights are typically depressing, but a 2-day work week is helping my mood considerably this evening.  The only part I don't like about our upcoming trip is leaving the boys for 5 days, but their favorite pet sitter will be at our house, so I know they'll be in good hands.

November 13, 2011

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving Feast

After kicking the idea around for the past couple of weeks, I finally made a Thanksgiving-style dinner today.  It was quite fun, and I am still amazed that everything turned out so well.  Granted it is a lot easier preparing a meal for just two people, compared to cooking a big family meal! 

The Menu:
Ciabatta Stuffing
Maple Sweet Potato Puree
Cranberry-Orange Relish
Pear Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette
Mini Pecan Tarts

Chris also grilled himself a pork chop, which I was in favor of because he initially wanted to make a turkey which I would have had to share oven space with.

As I mentioned last month, I had a wonderful cranberry-orange relish at my Dad's church during a Harvest Supper.  I made it yesterday for the first time, and it was just as amazing as I remembered.  I also wanted to try a similar NY Times recipe, so I made half a batch of each and loved them both.

According to The New York Times, "The cranberry-orange combo is very high in vitamin C, much of which is lost in cooked cranberry sauce."

Cranberry-Orange Relish Recipe
12oz fresh cranberries
1 whole navel orange, skin included
1 cup sugar

On Saturday, I cut the ciabatta bread so it could dry out overnight.  I spread it in an even layer on a 12x17 baking sheet, then put it in the oven and put a post-it note over the on button, so I wouldn't mistakenly turn the oven on.  Approximately 24 hours later, the bread was perfect for stuffing.

The original recipe calls for pancetta, and the chef in my cooking class last week mentioned that you could add more vegetables for a vegetarian option such as peppers, tomatoes or mushrooms, but I wanted a stuffing that tasted more traditional.

Ciabatta Stuffing Recipe
1lb (6-8 cups) ciabatta bread, cut into 3/4" cubes
4 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 teaspoons dried sage
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup vegetable broth
2 large eggs, beaten
salt & pepper

I love mashed potatoes, but standard potatoes aren't exactly a healthy Chris loves to remind me.  So I was excited to sample a maple sweet potato puree in the same cooking class last week that tasted even better than mashed potatoes. 

Plus, it is really easy to make! Just boil the potatoes, and add to a food processor with maple syrup and a little butter.  This dish easily reheats, which makes it ideal for Thanksgiving.

Maple Sweet Potato Puree Recipe
4 large sweet potatoes
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper

The pear salad I made is a modified version of the delicious salad that my friend Claire made recently.  I didn't have any fresh raspberries, but I loved the combination of pear and raspberry flavors, so I added raspberry jam to the dressing.

Pear Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette Recipe
8 cups baby spinach, red leaf lettuce or a mix of the two
2 Bosc or Anjou pears, quartered lengthwise, cored, and thinly sliced
2 oz. Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp raspberry jam

For dessert, I made mini pecan tarts, and it was the perfect sized dessert after a very filling dinner.  I've never had pecan pie, but I imagine that these taste very similar.

1/2 cup butter, softened
3oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, finely chopped

November 11, 2011

Marzipan Cookies

Are you familiar with marzipan?  I had never heard of it until a visit to Spain in 2007 at Christmas.  I bought marzipan on a whim a few months ago, and decided it time to finally make something with it.

I found recipes for some amazing sounding desserts, but after a long day at work, I wanted to make something with minimal effort such as cookies.  The recipe I decided on is suppose to be a lot fussier, but the version I made was delicious, so I'd recommend my quick and easy version :)

Marzipan Cookies

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes per batch

Ingredients (40 cookies)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3.5 oz marzipan, cut in small pieces
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • Preheat oven to 375°F.
  • Beat butter, marzipan, egg, sugar and extracts medium speed for 3 minutes until fluffy. Then on low, beat in flour, coconut and almonds just until blended
  • Roll dough into 1-inch balls (or use a small cookie scoop) and place on an ungreased baking sheet. If you prefer flatter cookies, slightly press down on each ball with the bottom of a glass (I sprayed the glass bottom with canola oil).
  • Bake for 10 minutes and remove to wire rack. Store in the freezer.
Recipe adapted from: Woman's Day
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The original recipe calls for pine nuts, which I've never bought in my life because they're so expensive, however pine nuts definitely would have been more authentic.  The marzipan treats we bought in Toledo, Spain were covered in pine nuts, as you can see in the photo below.

Toledo is famous for marzipan, and many marzipan creations can be viewed in store windows.  As I was looking through the photos from our trip to Spain just now, I'm grateful we had two digital cameras, and that they're organized in Picasa because they're very easy to share almost 4 years later.

November 06, 2011

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

I often find Chris standing in the kitchen with the fridge door open.  Last night was no exception, as he said to me "have you ever thought about trying this yogurt pancakes recipe?" as he looked at our vanilla Chobani container.  So this morning, Chris made Greek yogurt pancakes.

We both really liked this recipe, and will definitely be making it again.  I thought they tasted great plain, a little better with maple syrup, but the best with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Given the quantity of yogurt and milk in this recipe, I was curious about the protein content.  The recipe made 12 pancakes, so I've listed the nutrition stats for the entire recipe and each pancake below.

Yogurt = 255 calories, 33 grams protein
Skim Milk = 68 calories, 6 grams protein
Egg = 72 calories, 6 grams protein
All-Purpose Flour =  300 calories, 9 grams protein
Whole Wheat Flour = 330 calories, 12 grams protein

Total Calories = 1,025 (85 calories per pancake)
Total Protein = 66 grams (5.5 grams per pancake)

Greek Yogurt Pancakes

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (12 pancakes)

  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • In a large bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, egg and milk. Add yogurt mixture to flour mixture, stir just until combined.
  • Heat skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly coat with cooking spray and pour about 1/4 cup of batter onto pan for each pancake. Flip when bubbles appear and cook until golden brown.

Recipe adapted from: Chobani
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November 02, 2011

Potato Leek Soup

The soup I made tonight was wonderful.  I followed Elise's recipe on Simply Recipes exactly, and I highly recommend making it!  I chose this recipe for dinner because I was able to use three items from my CSA box...potatoes, leeks and parsley.

3 large leeks, cut lengthwise, separate, clean, then chop (using only the white and pale green parts)
2 Tbsp butter
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
2 lbs potatoes, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
Marjoram - dash
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
tabasco sauce (only in Chris' bowl)
salt & pepper

As soon as we finish trying a new recipe, I always ask Chris what he thought, so I know if it's something I should make again.  Approximately half of the time, he says "good but it could use..." and the answer is always meat.  Tonight's response was "good but it could use ham."