Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Autumn Beet Salad with Toasted Caraway Vinaigrette

After a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend where we got to enjoy delicious meals with both of our families, I was looking forward to getting back home and eating healthy again. We got a little behind on CSA boxes with the holiday so this salad uses cabbage from week 25 and the beets from week 26, aka, the future, which I hope to blog about soon.

Also, I'm only about 75% sure I actually used caraway seeds in this dressing. It may have been some other seed. When I checked to see if I had any, I found two plastic bags with slightly different looking seeds in each, unlabeled of course. They smelled the same to me, so I went with the darker one.

We ate this salad as a big side salad. To add some carbohydrates and protein to the meal, I roasted some sweet potatoes (not the ones from this week, but next week), and bought some really good spicy pork meatballs, hot and ready straight from the Co-op. Totally random assortment of food, but it works for us.

CSA Week 25:

In the box: 1 head cabbage, 3/4 pound broccoli, 1 pound tomatoes, 1 bunch cilantro, 1 onion, 2 bell peppers, 2 pounds sweet potatoes, 2 pounds red potatoes, 2 pounds Liberty apples

I tried a new recipe for sweet potato casserole from Skinnytaste. I was intrigued by the fact that it called for crushed pineapple and agave for sweeteners, and I liked the idea that it contained no butter whatsoever. The verdict? Good, but we didn't think it had enough "wow" factor to bring it to Thanksgiving dinner. Joe wasn't a fan of the raisins.  Overall it was very healthy and easy. It made a great weeknight meal. We baked some ham to go with it, rubbed with dry mustard and brown sugar and glazed with apricot jam (recipe from Taste of Home). We scaled the recipe way down for our "perfect for two" 1 1/2 pound ham from Niman Ranch and it was delicious.

The next morning we sauteed the bulk of the CSA veggies (bell peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, onion, and a bit of cilantro), plus the leftover ham to make some rocking breakfast burritos. We only had two eggs in the fridge so the addition of ham and a big pile of veggies bulked it up enough for two huge burritos.

Note to self: don't leave pans on the stove that smell like ham for days at a time - your cat will eventually take notice and help himself to a tasty - albeit two day old - snack. He did not seem phased at all when I caught him on the counter licking the pan, leading me to believe this is business as usual for him. I really need to be better about doing dishes in a timely manner.

I discovered a really low maintenance lunch this past week: layer leftover rice, beans (drained/rinsed canned, or in my case we happened to have leftover beer-glazed black beans), and chopped raw broccoli in a microwave-safe Tupperware container. The broccoli will steam itself while you heat up the rice and beans, and you will have a very filling and delicious lunch for work.  If the beans had been plain, I would have added Yumm! Sauce.

Another new recipe I tried was Dijon Roasted New Potatoes from Weight Watchers. We really liked these. They took a bit longer to cook than it said, but I also had 2 pounds of potatoes to cook rather than 1 1/2 pounds like it calls for. Very little oil and lots of mustard, herbs and spices. We were out of Dijon so I substituted Sierra Nevada Stout mustard. We had these potatoes with some elk steak and sauteed kale and red bell pepper (another preview of next week's CSA).

WW Dijon Roasted New Potatoes
I used half the cabbage, some tomatoes, plus carrots and celery from last week's CSA to make a big pot of Weight Watcher's Fresh Vegetable Soup. I also found a bag of frozen Romano beans from a previous CSA in the freezer so I threw those into the pot as well. I usually just use what I have on hand rather than all the vegetables it calls for, and I always add canned kidney beans for more protein. I ate this every single day for lunch during the week of Thanksgiving in hopes that it would offset the damage from two Thanksgiving dinners.

Speaking of offsetting damage from Thanksgiving, help yourself to this cleansing and refreshing salad!

Autumn Beet Salad
adapted from Cuisine At Home - October 2008, Issue 71
serves 2 generous side salads, or 4 small side salads

Note: A mixture of golden and red beets would be pretty, if you can find them. Our CSA newsletter said that because the beets they gave us were small and organic, we didn't need to peel them, so we just scrubbed them well under running water.

1/2 pound beets (about 5-6 small) peeled and halved or quartered if large so they are all about the same size
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon apple juice
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
Salt to taste
4 cups savoy or green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced or shaved
handful fennel fronds, torn

Fill a large pot with about 1 inch of water and place a steamer basket on top, making sure the water does not touch the steamer basket. Arrange the beets in the steamer basket. Cover and let them steam until tender, 35-45 minutes. Make sure the water doesn't evaporate completely. Remove the beets and let cool for a few minutes, then cut into wedges.

Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the oil, vinegar, juice concentrate, mustard, caraway seeds, and salt until combined.

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, fennel, and fronds with about half of the vinaigrette until coated. In a second bowl, toss the beet wedges with the other half of the vinaigrette (mixing them separately keeps the beets from staining the entire salad).

To serve, divide the cabbage mixture among plates and top with the beets. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Butternut squash, curry powder, and apples are a classic combination and this soup is perfect for a chilly fall day! I thought it paired nicely with grilled cheese.

An added bonus when making this recipe is that I got to use my new food mill! I thought sure this would be one of those kitchen purchases that would only see the light of day once a year to make apple butter, so I was super excited to find a use for it so soon. Don't have a food mill? Not to worry, you can use a food processor, an immersion blender, probably even a potato masher. You're not looking for a velvety smooth texture with this soup.

It's so delicious, even Forest wanted a taste.

But a moment later he became extremely interested in a deer who was foraging in the backyard. Lots of deer and wild turkeys up here.

And let's not forget the cat, Lucky. He's older than dirt but still wants nothing more than to snuggle with you all day long.

CSA Week 24:

In the box: One bunch radishes, one bunch carrots, one head celery, one head cauliflower, 3/4 pound broccoli, 1 pound Sweet Girl tomatoes, 1 Delicata squash, 3 heads garlic, 1 basket strawberries, 2 pounds Jonagold apples

Same story as last week: still house/pet-sitting (see adorable animals above), so we split up the box again.

One night for dinner I cooked up some pasta and tossed it with a jar of my roasted summer tomatoes. I found a bag of fully-cooked, frozen meatballs in the freezer at the house where I'm staying, so I baked a few of those to go on top for protein. They were not good at all, but at least the pasta and sauce were delicious. I roasted the broccoli to go alongside, one of my favorite ways to eat broccoli. If I were smart I would have roasted the tomatoes we got this week for the sauce, because when I stopped in at home on my lunch break a few days later I noticed that they had gone bad. Darn! They must have been really ripe when we received them.Too bad I wasn't home to notice it.

I used some of the celery to make Yumm! Tuna Salad, which I ate two ways: on top of a big bed of salad greens, and on top of a toasted English muffin with cheese. I sliced a few stalks into short sticks for dipping in hummus as a snack. I gave the rest to Joe and hinted that maybe he could make a batch of beef stock this week.

Joe also got the cauliflower, delicata squash, and the carrots. He said he peeled and sliced the squash and then sauteed it in a pan with some oil until tender, and had it with rice. Apparently that the basic recipe from How to Cook Everything and there are a ton of variations. He says he's going use the cauliflower to make the Test Kitchen curried skillet cauliflower we made a few weeks ago. I haven't heard anything about the carrots.

Local strawberries in fall, whaaat? I was very surprised. Aside from being a little white in the middle, they were actually pretty sweet! They made a tasty snack just as they were.

I roasted the radishes in the oven while I baked a Cousin Jack's Pasty. They needed a little more time to cook than the pasty did though, and eventually I got impatient and took them out, even though they could have gone longer. I washed and chopped the radish greens and steamed them in the microwave for a couple of minutes, then tossed with salt and olive oil (no pepper because they are already pretty peppery).

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup
adapted from Ina Garten
makes 3 1/2 quarts

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chopped yellow onions (3 large)
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
5 pounds butternut squash (2 large)
1 1/2 pounds sweet apples, such as McIntosh or Jonagold (about 4)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups water
2 cups good apple cider or juice (not from concentrate, no sugar added)

Add the butter, oil, onions, and curry powder to a large stockpot. Cook over low heat, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, until the onions are tender, Stir occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot as you do.

Meanwhile, peel and seed the squash. Cut into chunks (I cut mine into approx. 2 inch pieces). Peel and core the apples, then cut them into chunks of similar size.

Add the squash, apples, salt, pepper, and 2 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 30-40 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Process the soup through a food mill fitted with a large blade (or other method producing similar results, such as a potato masher, a few pulses in a food processor, or immersion blender).

Return the soup back to the pot. Add the apple cider or juice and enough water to make the soup the consistency you like; it should be slightly sweet and quite thick. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve hot. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Barley and Beef Stew

It's officially cold and wintery. Bring on the soup! We really liked this recipe from Mark Bittman. Big chunks of veggies, hearty grains, and tender beef. So good.

We're finally nearing the end of our Bald Hill beef stash. It's taken us a little over a year, and in the process we've learned a lot about different cuts of beef and how to cook them. I've tried a lot of different cuts that I might not have ever tried otherwise. We've had some great classics, such as:

Salisbury steak (made with cube steak)
Beef sirloin tip roast
Beef stroganoff (made it twice, once with beef tenderloin and again with beef sirloin)
Braised short ribs
Roast beef (to make taquitos)
Flank steak

Other cuts I didn't blog about include oxtail (braised in tomato sauce - delicious), liver (with onions and pan sauce, visually appealing but disgusting), arm roast chopped up for beef stew, and many, many steak dinners.

We also got a ton of ground beef in this order. We ended up giving some away, and we also gave a large portion to my dad which he returned to us later in jerky form (he makes awesome jerky). My favorite recipes that we made with ground beef, besides the usual burgers, include:

Phyllo-wrapped ground beef and vegetable pastries
Thai-style ground beef
Sesame-soy meatballs
Stuffed bell peppers with rice and ground beef
Frito Chili Pie - from the Pioneer Woman - a simple recipe to throw together (almost no prep because most ingredients are canned) and it's absolutely delicious. Before now I would have never thought to put Fritos on chili. It's definitely going to become a staple recipe in our house I think. We've already made it twice in the last month.

We have a few cuts left that I haven't decided what to do with yet - London Broil and Rib Steak. Any suggestions???

CSA Week 23:

In the box: 1 lettuce, 1 bunch carrots, 1 bunch arugula, 1 basket grape tomatoes, 2 pounds sweet potatoes, 2 pounds Nicola potatoes, 1 Butternut squash, 3/4 pound Jimmy Nardelo peppers, 2 pounds Liberty apples.

We sauteed the peppers, along with some onions, and piled them on top of chicken andouille sausages from Costco. We even had hot dog buns in the freezer - bonus! I warmed them in the oven at 200 F and they tasted just like fresh ones.

Since I am house/pet-sitting for the next couple of weeks at a home on the outskirts of town (in the woods and on a mountain, no less), Joe and I split up the CSA. I took the arugula, some lettuce, grape tomatoes, half of the apples, and the other sweet potato, and gave him the rest.

I stopped over for dinner on Sunday and Joe had prepared an amazing beef stew using up the rest of the carrots and Nicola potatoes. He used the beef stew recipe from The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook (if you don't have it, you should get it!). We had an huge arm roast in our beef stash so he cut that up into chunks, and saved the bone to make stock later. Note to self: arm roasts make great stew meat! Very tender and flavorful.

We still had some mascarpone leftover from when we made the tomato and tapenade tarts so I wanted to think of a way to combine that with the arugula, grape tomatoes, and maybe some pasta. I found this recipe from NPR. Basically you whisk together the mascarpone, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a little of the hot pasta water, then toss it together with hot cooked corkscrew pasta and arugula. I sliced the grape tomatoes in half and threw those in too. The hot pasta wilts the greens nicely and their peppery flavor offsets the creaminess of the sauce. Next time I would double the sauce recipe; I like my pasta very "saucy".

We seem to be hording our winter squash for now. We now have a Delicata and this new Butternut in our collection.

Barley and Beef Stew
adapted from Mark Bittman - How to Cook Everything
makes about 4 servings

Notes: Instead of barley, you could also use kasha, buckwheat grouts, millet, or cracked wheat. Instead of starting with a hunk of chuck or round, we just used a package of beef stew meat and cut it into smaller pieces.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound beef chuck or round, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large onion, chopped
3 cups chicken or beef stock, or water
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium potatoes, preferably waxy, peeled and cut into about 1-inch pieces
8 garlic cloves, peeled (optional - but so good I wouldn't skip them)
2 cups sliced mushrooms, preferably an assortment (I used cremini and shiitake), OR 1 cup sliced button mushrooms and 1/2 cup dried porcini or other dried mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water to cover (but mushrooms in general are optional here)
1/3 cup pearl barley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Chopped parsley or celery leaves for garnish

Heat the oil in a deep saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat. When hot, add the beef, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides. Add the onion, cook for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the stock (if you used dried mushrooms, include their strained liquid - just reduce the amount of stock accordingly). Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and slowly simmer (should barely bubble) for about 30 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, mushrooms, barley and thyme. Bring back up to a boil, then lower the heat again, cover, and slowly simmer for another 30 minutes, stirring every so often.

When all the vegetables are tender, the stew is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with parsley, and serve.

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