Archive | August, 2011

The Root of Things

30 Aug

A year ago, I sat on the couch, belly filled with Herbed Potato Salad, and set to writing.  It had been a long time coming – lots of cooking, lots of recording and testing recipes, and lots of telling my, then fiancé, story after story that made him laugh (usually) and me warm with reminisce.  We were just days away from our wedding, days away from school starting, and admittedly stress levels were high.  And then one day we counted, and laughed about the number of potatoes in our CSA farm basket.  42.

A year later, we are still laughing!  Last Friday, we got 57 potatoes!  In addition to the plethora of zucchini, heirloom tomatoes, and cauliflower.  Like I said in my very first 42potaotes post, farm baskets are awesome!

That being said, I know I haven’t blogged a lot this summer.  It bums me out a bit, and honestly frustrates me just a tad, but looking back on this summer, it has flown by in a blink.  Rob and I have had a great time traveling to Cape Cod, visiting with my mom, and most recently, indulging in an early anniversary celebration to Bend, Oregon.  It has been fun.  Also, a few weeks ago I started working with my new job as a TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) / Instructional Specialist for the school district.  I’ve been raring to go, and the planning has been taking up a lot of my thought, time, energy, and motivation.  Thus, sadly to say, cooking has taken a back seat to lots of sourdough and tomato sandwiches and, well, sleep.

But I must say a big THANK YOU to the so-many-people that have left comments over the last year, and have also asked me why I haven’t been blogging recently.  That means people have been READING!  It touches my heart and makes this whole blog-o-sphere so much more personal and meaningful, so thank you!

It’s amazing how the Internet can bring people closer.  No, I don’t mean to be all clichéd, and no, I’m not getting contractor pay for an Internet company to boof up the idea that technology really can be intimate.  I actually happen to have an affinity towards the unseen technical universe, as it is not only how I can communicate stories and recipes, but also how Rob and I met.

Yes, we are an eHarmony success story, not only meeting online, but spent 5 months prior to meeting face-to-face talking/chatting/texting.  This is where some of our best memories came as we talked about everything from politics to favorite color.  When we finally met in Chicago in the dead middle of winter (it was kick-you-in-the-crotch-cold outside), it all started at 1:00 in the morning with an awkward text conversation.

“I just got in… are you still awake?” my fingers nervously, and strangely were slow in tapping the buttons.

“Yeah, I am.”

Great.  I have to make the first move.  “So… how do you want to do this?”

“Well, I can come up to your room,” Uh, no-sir-ee, buddy.  Not so fast.

I looked around.  The hotel, even though the a.m. was creeping around the corner, the downtown lobby was hopping with, ironically enough, a military convention.

“Why don’t we just meet in the lobby, by the bar.”

“Ok, see you soon.”

At this point, I was sweating despite the –9 degree weather out side, and proud of myself for 1) having the guts to fly almost across the country to meet some guy, and 2) not pooping my pants for doing so.

Long story short, Rob was standing by, and slightly behind, a giant margarita glass and gave me a little side wave.  I waved back, and during a small hug waited to hear his very distinctive voice before looking up to see his face.  We talked until 4:30 in the morning, and the rest is well, living history.

So with my little techie blog world anniversary, and the anniversary of marrying that guy next to the margarita glass just days around the corner, I decided to go back to the roots of things…. Potato roots that is.

Anniversaries are traditionally fancy occasions, but sticking with my homey comfort, I decided to “pull an Ina,” and make a very cozy yet elegant dish.  So out came Sweet Potato Soufflés with Ginger Preserves and Marscapone.  We ate it almost too piping-hot and paired it with Rob’s anniversary present: Stoic beer (a new tangy Belgian-style brew from Deschutes).  It was amazing.

I chose to make these soufflés somewhat sweet, but not overwhelmingly so.  They are great as a light lunch, a warm snack, definitely dessert, and satisfying breakfast.  Paying honor to the classic French technique, but also in trying to keep healthy (the irony is that I skipped Zumba class to bake these), I only used simple and nutritious ingredients, so there is no guilt about eating more than one.  Or two.  Or three?  Sure.

So now it’s back to my roots of cooking, blogging, and sharing many more cooking experiences.  Stay tuned!

Sweet Potato Soufflé with Ginger Preserves and Marscapone (makes 12)

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 2 c finely processed sweet potato (stop processing just before the sweet potatoes are totally puréed)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 8 oz. Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 c olive oil
  • ½ c good quality honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 egg whites, whipped until stiff peaks
  • butter, for greasing the muffin tin
  • a sprinkling of flour, for the muffin tin
  • ginger preserves and Marscapone cheese, for garnish 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease and flour a standard muffin tin.  

After whipping the egg whites, in a separate large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together, minus the sweet potatoes.  In another bowl, mix the honey, yogurt, oil, and vanilla together until just combined.  In batches of three, add in the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix to combine.  Then, slowly mix in the sweet potatoes, and then fold in the egg whites.  

Equally spoon the batter into the muffin tins.  Bake for 20 minutes.  

When the soufflés come out, they will be puffed, and after a minute will start to fall just a bit.  That is ok!  That is the nature of a soufflé!  

While still warm, top with a dollop of ginger preserves and Marscapone cheese.  The cheese will start to melt, and will mix with the standard moistness of the inside of the soufflé.    

Enjoy!  

Sig in his favorite spot in the house... the kitchen.

A Foodie Day

8 Aug

Let’s just say, yesterday was a good day.  Especially since almost every ingredient I used throughout the day came from local Oregon farms (or waters).  Check it out:

Breakfast (which turned into Brunch by the time it all came together): Deconstructed Egg Salad; soft boiled quail eggs with a creamy vinaigrette, with tender greens and scallions, and bacon.  I’m sure it was quite a sight to see, me hunched over the counter for nearly 30 minutes delicately peeling the thin skins on all those darn little quail eggs, but it was worth the backache, and the time.

Lunch: “Blue” Pesto over Tomatoes; a sweet, tangy, and creamy blend of blueberries (we keep getting more from our CSA basket!  Last summer was 42 potatoes, this summer should be 42 blueberries!), blue cheese, lemon basil, and lemon juice, poured over freshly picked beefsteak tomato slices.  Unlikely combination, fantastic concoction!

Happy Hour: Lemon Pepper Edamame; Just like it sounds!  Creamy, crunchy soy beans, still warm in their pods, topped with a sprinkle of freshly cracked pepper and lemon zest.  The bowl was gone while the hour was still happy.

Dinner: Sauteed Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chard; since Rob is out of town, my mercury level will definitely rise this week with the amount of shellfish I’m planning on consuming (despite all my efforts and preparations, he still won’t touch the stuff).  This simple meal, combined with fresh artisan sourdough, completely rounded out the foodie day.  I was licking the bowl.  Literally.  Please don’t judge.

Sauteed Shrimp with Tomatoes and Chard (serves 2) 

  • 1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • 1/2 small sweet white onion (Walla Walla is great), thinly sliced
  • about 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered 
  • 2 c swiss chard sliced into very thin ribbons, called chiffonade (measure after you slice) 
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 c chardonnay 
  • 1 tbsp marscapone cheese
  • zest of 1 lemon 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • s&p 
  • good crusty bread, to serve, preferably sourdough

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over med-high heat.  Add the onions, and a bit of salt, and saute until translucent.  Add the tomatoes and the chard, and continue to saute until the chard has just started to wilt.  

Meanwhile, season the shrimp with salt and pepper.  

Once chard has started to wilt, add in the red pepper flakes, oregano, and deglaze the pan with the chardonnay.  After about 2 minutes, add in the shrimp, and saute until shrimp is just starting to turn to pink.  Cover the pan and let simmer until shrimp is just cooked, about 3-4 minutes.  Take off the cover, turn off the heat, and add in the marscapone cheese, stirring to incorporate.  Taste for seasoning.  

Serve in a shallow bowl with the pan sauce, and with chunks of bread to rip off and soak up all the goodness.  Then, lick the bowl when finished.  

Enjoy!  

Sig got a hold of a rogue blueberry. He played with it for a while, but then swallowed it whole, and started begging for more. Figures.

OMG Cookies

2 Aug

Growing up, there was a “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” poster hanging in my bedroom.  It listed all of the comforting, thoughtful, and humble tidbits of advice that are so simply simple that they are easily forgotten through the doldrums of “real” life.  Well, if you ask a Kindergartner who just came home from a trying day of their first of at least 12 years of education, Kindergarten is real life.

I would stare and stare at that poster.  But out of all of wise advice, there were two points that I would always look for (they were right next to each other) and thus still remember today: Flush, and, Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Isn’t that the truth?

That poster is now hanging in my mom’s Kindergarten classroom, and whenever I come to visit, I look for my two favorite bits of advice.

While I’ve got the flushing part down, I am always looking for a good cookie.  Well, let me rephrase that – I don’t generally love cookies, so when I get the craving for a cookie, I only go for the excellent ones.  Today, I had that craving.

Searching the fridge and pantry for the other prescribed “options” to satisfy sweet cravings, like all the health magazines tell you to do (I’m sorry, I’m not roasting zucchini to satisfy a sugar and butter craving.  Although I do love roasted zucchini), I found nothing to satisfy the immediate need.  However, while lacklusterly leaning against the pantry door, I was reminded of my baking ingredients, as well as the homemade Oregon granola I mixed up a few weeks ago (I call it Oregon granola because I use local dried cranberries, local hazelnuts, and amaranth grains).

So I got to baking, and unlike the many, many other times I’ve tried to make great cookies, I actually did this time.  There was so much satisfaction in hand-forming them, and Sig kept smelling the air while they were baking.  The cookies are sweet and salty, and crunchy and gooey; of course, I ate a couple just a few minutes out of the oven with a glass of milk.  You need to try these cookies.  Really.  I’m about to eat the whole batch.  They are nothing like roasted zucchini.  And if you are trying to be healthy and start to feel guilty about making cookies, then remember these two things: 1) they are made with whole wheat flour, and 2) warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Granola Shortbread Cookies (makes 12 cookies) 

  • 2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c granola (use your favorite brand or homemade) 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (plus a bit more to sprinkle on top of the cookies) 
  • 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, just starting to become room temperature, but still a little cold in the middle
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (make sure it’s good quality, or it will smell and taste alcohol-y) 
  • a bit of 1/2 & 1/2 to brush on the top of the cookies before baking

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.  

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Whisk to make sure it is well combined.  

In a stand mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.  Once mixed, add the almond extract and the egg, and mix to combine.  

In batches of 3, add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix to combine.  Using a spatula, fold in the granola and the chocolate chips – the batter will seem a bit crumbly, but that is ok.  

Using a 1/4 c dry measure, scoop up that amount of batter and tap into the palm of your hand.  Using your hands, form the cookie like you would a hamburger.  Once 12 cookies have been formed and placed on baking sheet, paint a bit of 1/2 & 1/2 on the top of each cookie.  Then sprinkle each cookie with just a bit of kosher salt on top.  

Bake until cookies are golden, plumped, and fragrant, about 15 minutes. 

Enjoy warm with cold milk!  

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