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Veg au Vin

8 Oct

I’m stuffed.  Rob and I are lying here, watching Notre Dame spank the Air Force, bellies full and grumbling with happy digestion.  The thing is, I don’t know what I just cooked.

“What should I call it?” I asked, my hands on hips showing a slight frustration.

“I don’t know,” Rob was not as perturbed as me, “what is it?”

“Well, I don’t really know.  It’s not a stew, and definitely not a soup.  It’s more of a braise,” my voice trailing a bit.

“Ok, then it’s a braise.”  Problem solved in Rob’s eyes – such a guy.

“Yes, but what do I call it?”

The cyclical nature of our conversation was cut short from the overwhelmingly hoppy smell coming from the oven – Cheddar Apple Beer Bread – the perfect side dish for whatever it was I just made.

It’s not a cold Oregon day today, but cloudy and it definitely has a fall vibe.  A day for relaxing, Rob made it clear that Notre Dame football was in the cards, and being a gal who actually enjoying the talking head commentators, muffed roar of stadiums, and the occasional adrenaline induced touchdown dance, there was no argument.   Sig agreed with our plan as well; his sleepy head currently hanging off the side of his bed is a perfect picture of the day’s tangible vibe.  But Sig didn’t get to enjoy what is putting me on the brink of falling into a food-baby coma right now (if sentences start looking like this: ioasdaf;asdfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj, pardon me – my head probably hit the keyboard).

So what did I make?  Well, it’s already been determined that, well, we don’t know.  But the closest thing I can compare it to is veggies braised in wine.  Thus, Veg au Vin.  Our CSA basket is still providing beautiful and bountiful veg, and having been out of town for most of last week and a bit of this week, the build up meant we couldn’t shut the crisper door.  It was time to do what the CSA basket forces me to do – be culinarily creative.

It was actually a very easy dish to make, and probably one of the best veggie dishes I’ve ever cooked – not trying to toot my own horn here, just being honest.  This Veg au Vin was a discovered concoction of what has to have come from a higher nutritional power, as it did not taste twigs-and-nuts healthy, but rich, smokey, flavorful, and hearty.  Topped with a fresh radish “gremolata” (a gremolata is typical for many braised dishes), and paired with the Cheddar Apple Beer Bread, we had the perfect meal for a football soaked, lazy-bones celebration of a day.

And now, I must let the sounds of whistles and college band fight songs coax me into a nap (Rob and Sig already have a head start).

Veg au Vin

  • 3 strips of thick bacon, diced
  • 4 carrots, halved and thickly sliced
  • 3 celery stalks, thickly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers (I used red and green), chopped into chunks
  • 1 large white onion, chopped into chunks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 med head cauiflower, chopped into chunks
  • 1 med head broccoli, chopped into florets
  • 2 med zuchinni, halved and thickly sliced
  • 1 large chipotle pepper, minced
  • 1 small sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • ¾ c red wine (I used a rich Washington Cabernet)
  • s&p

Brown the bacon in a heavy bottomed pot.  When crispy, remove and set aside on paper towel.  Saute the onion, carrot, celery, bell peppers, and garlic in the bacon drippings.  When just starting to turn soft, add the rest of the veg, and pour in the wine.  Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot.  Add the herbs, cumin, s&p, mix, and cover for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The last 5 minutes, uncover, stir, taste for seasoning, and turn off the heat.

Serve in large bowl with your favorite bread, and top with Radish Gremolata.

Enjoy!

Radish Gremolata

  • 2 large radishes, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl.  Let sit for about 5-10 minutes for flavors to come together.  Top on Veg au Vin.

Enjoy!

A Ray of Sun and a Puddle of Quicksand

4 Apr

Sometimes it takes a weekend just to slow down and appreciate the small things in life.  This weekend was just that.  Rob didn’t have duty, we enjoyed our time together, and the sun even came out for longer than a nanosecond, which allowed us to have a gourmet picnic breakfast on our back patio.  It was just lovely.

Saturday consisted of a trip to Eugene, and then a laid-back girls night a girlfriend’s house.  She, being a fellow foodie, had great food, an amazing cocktail, and a plethora of wine.  The only thing better was the estrogen-rich girl-bonding conversations that ensued.  Leaving her house relaxed and genuinely happy, I woke Sunday morning to a strange foreign object in the sky – it was bright and warm, and strangely familiar… Ok, I’ll cease with the dripping sarcasm, but you get my point – it felt like a reset button had been pushed waking up to the sun.  So while Rob was still sound asleep, I got to work making food for our breakfast outside.  

I should set the scene a bit and explain that while we have a nice backyard, we have no backyard furniture.  Furthermore, as it’s been raining daily for months, the lawn looks more like a small jungle with killer dandelions, and crabgrass that seems like it’s going to come alive.  So Rob and I sat on the 5×10 ft. concrete rectangle which we covered with our first-time used picnic blanket and couch cushions.  We yummed over Baked Eggs with Spinach and Chipotle Hollandaise sauce and we soaked up some very-needed Vitamin D.  It was just perfect.

But after an hour, an inevitable thin layer of clouds came hazing in.  So before the rain had its chance to keep us housebound, we decided to go for a hike – something Rob and I love and bond over, but haven’t had the chance to enjoy for quite some time.

We found a new trail which led to a WWII bunker (cool, but kind of creepy… I didn’t venture inside), but had to be very careful of our footing.  The trail had a heart-racing, but not debilitating, incline, and, remember all the rain?  Well, rain = mud.  Lots and lots of mud = slippery slope.  Higher elevation up a mountain = eroded sandstone.  Slippery saturated, loose sandstone = quicksand.  And Rob’s foot went right in.  He was up to mid-shin before slowly and carefully found solid ground and pulled it out.  Laughing the whole time, he pointed out the “puddle” saying, “Don’t step there!”  By this point, the gooey mud had already seeped in and invaded the inside of my shoes, and after realizing one wrong step could suck me in, I deserted the (small) Indiana Jones within and let “flight” take over “fight.”  Home sounded so much better than this muddy mountain!  But with Rob’s happy-boy encouragement, we trekked on.

The trail leveled off to a 6 foot wide ridge with beautiful deep green ravines on either side.  But we were then confronted with a fork in the road and it’s corresponding question: Right, down through the ravine, or left, up the mountain?

“Which is more muddy?” Rob asked, squishing with each step.

“Probably both,” I sighed, still weary of slipping in mud and now falling down either side of the mountain after slipping.

We chose up.  The trail got smaller and more dense to where we had to walk in single file.  By this point, our conversation had lessened and the comforting yet questioning sounds of nature surrounded us.

I heard the buzzing before Rob, behind me sounding like a large hornet or a bullet bug taking aim.  Within the longest millisecond period of time, the buzzing got louder and faster, and then changed to a high pitched whop whop whop similar only to the sound of Rob flying the helicopter too low over our house.  Whatever this Unidentified Flying Object was, it was coming straight towards us, Rob’s bald spot a targeted landing pad.

I did what any normal person would do – scream and duck (causing a slip in mud) at which time Rob heard the dive-bombing flying monstrosity and did the same (without the girly scream).  Was it a bird?  A plane?  Underdog?  Most likely it was a freakishly large bug getting his week’s worth of laughs by making a couple hikers almost poop themselves.  My “fight or flight” kicked in again, this time even more for just sliding on my butt down that muddy mountain.  But we trudged on.

As you can probably guess, this Oregon Nature Nightmare does have a happy ending.  We ran into an old logging trail, and by the time we reached the top, the sun was shining again, and the whole Southern Oregon Coast was before our eyes.  We could see hundreds of miles down the rugged shore, past ports and harbors we haven’t even yet explored by car.  From our birds-eye view, we could see how the treacherous weather makes this place so unique; the green and violent Oregon Coast is breathtaking.

Holding hands, as we turned to head back down the mountain, we looked up to see a fleeting sight of freedom and beauty: a bald eagle soaring just above and quickly out of sight.

We made it back down the mountain without any more mud slips, UFB (Unidentified Flying Bug) encounters, or quicksand rescues.  That night we enjoyed a lovely dinner with friends, and fell asleep happy and tired.

Needless to say, our hike definitely worked off the indulgent hollandaise sauce consumed earlier.  But with or without a hike, this is one of our favorite breakfasts that needs to be made more than just on the token sunny day.  It’s super easy, incredibly flavorful, and such a treat (and after eating it, you’ll have enough energy to climb a scary mountain – literally!).  Enjoy with your favorite coffee or tea, and just indulge!

Baked Eggs with Spinach and Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce (serves 2)

  • 4 eggs, 2 of the eggs separated into whites and yolks
  • 1 tbsp Half and Half
  • 2 c baby spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp mild green chilies (I find them in small cans in the international foods isle)
  • 2 chipotle peppers, very finely diced
  • 1/4 c finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • juice of 1 mandarin orange
  • 3 tbsp cold butter, cut into large dice.
  • s&p
  • slices of good bread, toasted, for serving
  • Sliced strawberry (or cherry) tomatoes, for garnish
  • Sliced dried mission figs, for garnish
  • fresh basil, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a heavy, oven-proof small saute pan, saute the green chilies in one small dice of the butter over med heat.  Once warmed through and very slightly browned, add in the spinach leaves and saute on med-low to wilt (they will wilt drastically).  Season with a bit of s&p.  Once mostly wilted, pour in the Half and Half.  Carefully crack 2 whole eggs into the pan (make sure the yolks are separate from each other), and add 2 egg whites.  Top with the cheddar cheese and a bit of cracked pepper.  Put the pan in the oven, and set timer for 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, put some pieces of your favorite bread in the toaster oven to crisp up.

In a small saucepan, add the chipotle peppers, and a small dice of butter.  Saute until fragrant.  Add the juice from the mandarin orange and the 2 egg yolks, and start whisking to emulsify.  One or two dices at a time, add the butter and whisk, until incorporated (put a gentle elbow grease into it).  Do this over low heat so the eggs don’t solidify, and if you see them start to scramble on the sides of the pan, take the pan off the heat and keep whisking.  Once all the butter is incorporated, taste for s&p.  The sauce should be silky and thick, and orangeish from the peppers.

Check the eggs – the whites should be just set, and the yolks still a bit runny.  Garnish with fresh basil chiffonade, tomatoes, and dried figs (the figs really make this dish pop – they add such an amazing surprising sweetness and texture).  NOTE: if you pull the eggs out a few minutes early, add the tomatoes and put the pan back in the oven to soften the tomatoes a bit.  It really does make a difference. 

Serve the eggs straight from the pan; gather the eggs on top of a piece of toast, and pour over a generous amount of hollandaise sauce.  Serve with some mandarin oranges and eat immediately!

Enjoy!!

The Chipotle Frittata Sandwich Took a Back Seat

1 Feb

… To cafeteria food.  Let me explain.

Most education specialists – speech therapists, Title 1 teachers, counselors, or otherwise, don’t always receive a typical sized classroom for their groups.  I’ve heard horror stores about speech therapists having to meet in conference rooms or broom closets due to lack of space and lack of funding to provide space.

Being a Title 1 subject specialist, I, as well as the ELL teacher and the counselor, have a small room located off the gym/cafeteria.  It works well for small groups, and I did my best to turn the gray brick walls into a place of learning, and the kids seem to really enjoy coming to my room – even if it’s just to hang out and say “hi” before the morning bell rings.

Due to the nature of my job, I have very fluid groups of kids that come see me for math intervention.  Then, based upon formal and informal assessment data, they either continue with the intervention, or “graduate” from my group.  The beginning of the year had a lot of movement, trying to figure out which kids in the school really needed the assistance, and who simply had a poor initial testing day.  But after the few beginning switches, I had a solid groups of kids ready and eager to improve in math.

One of my favorite things about being a teacher is how each class kind of forms their own personality.  They work together (for the most part), learn from each other, and generally mesh in a way that uniquely works for them.  No two classes are ever the same.  And at the end of the year, it’s always a little sad to see the class bolt out of the door, breaking that organic cohesive bond with each exuberant leap across the playground toward the summer ahead.

This year, being in this specific position, my classes are expected to change throughout the year.  We recently finished another round of formal testing, and yesterday my classes did change – drastically.  All weekend, I had this nagging familiar gut feeling that Monday was going to be like the last day of school, and the first day of school, all wrapped up into consecutive 45 minute periods throughout the day.  And my feeling was correct.  I was sad to see my classes change, the personalities of our groups evolving, but simultaneously extremely happy at the kids’ progress, and also nervous about the new dynamics of the brand new faces anticipating me as much as I was anticipating them.

With all that emotion, change, and newness, the day was already slightly exhausting my 11:00am.  But an interesting twist came at lunchtime when I started to smell the familiar, comforting scent that really only comes around once a year.  During a short break between my classes, I ran across the gym to the kitchen where I saw our lovely cooks furiously whisking mashed potatoes, and roasting giant turkey breasts with thick, rich gravy.  Stopping dead in my tracks, I looked at them open mouthed (and maybe drooling), and they looked up at me, breaking out in laughter, most likely from the ohmygosh-this-smells-like-heaven-but-I’m-confused-because-this-is-an-elementary-school-cafeteria-lunch-and-aren’t-there-Adam-Sandler-Sloppy-Joes-stereotypes-about-cafeteria-lunches?-look on my face.  As I happily relinquished my pride to the modern educational child nutrition Gods for improving what I remember as a cafeteria lunch, I asked a stupid question (for having worked at the school since August): “How do I buy lunch?”

Almost everyday I bring leftovers from the previous night’s dinner for lunch.  Bringing in things like Roasted Beet and Pear Salad with Spicy Pine Nut Butter dressing definitely draws some looks in the Teachers’ Lounge, especially next to the classic PB&J sandwich.  But yesterday’s lunch was especially good.  Sunday night, Rob was on duty and I had already brought over a Goat Cheese, Hazelnut, and Barley Salad for lunch, and a Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding for the next day’s breakfast.  We wanted something easy, yet stylish for his Sunday night working dinner, so I whipped up a chipotle frittata, served withOregon Pepper Jack cheese, greens, and a lime-cilantro dressing all layered between toasted 9-grain bread.  Holy cow – It. Was. Awesome.  Knowing I needed a lunch for Monday, I saved half of my sandwich, already looking forward to having a treat during my lunch break.

But before I even got close to diving into my Mexi-Italian inspired meal, the cafeteria got me.  Dragged me in.  Left me with no mercy.  Made me scream “uncle.”  Ok, I’m being dramatic again, but it was my all-time favorite comfort delight: Thanksgiving food.  I was more than happy with the lunch I had brought from home, but the simple familiarity of the Thanksgiving lunch was the perfect buffer to a day with so much change and uncertainty.  Needless to say, as I scarfed down the buttery mashed potatoes, and tore apart the turkey breast (so tender the plastic cafeteria fork more than sufficed), and practiced a good deal of adult self-restraint not the lick the last bit of gravy from the plate, my gourmet Chipotle Frittata Sandwich took a back seat.

Staying true to my New Years Resolution, I balanced my unexpected lunchtime caloric intake with a 2 mile run/5 mile walk and a lovely Green Goddess Salad for dinner.  But despite the extra reason to exercise, that lunchtime treat just made yesterday even more special.  Sadly, I said goodbye to many students and gladly accepted their group hugs.  Happily, I played 20 questions with new students, giving them the chance to break the ice and get to know me before I teach them the “tricks” of math.  I’m challenged by the opportunity to help a new group of K-4 students improve in a subject they understandably don’t like, and it’s a blessing to do so.  In hindsight (which is usually the best-sight), there was no real reason to stress about the change – it’s just a part of the job, and it’s a change that is so rewarding.

Today, almost every one of my former students came by to see me – it was so sweet.  And it made me realize what an important day yesterday really was.

(I also learned how to put money into my teacher’s lunch account, so now, the next time the Thanksgiving lunch rolls around, I’ll be ready to indulge!).

Chipotle Frittata Sandwich (serves 2)
NOTE: even though I gave this up to eat our school’s cafeteria food, it is an awesome sandwich.  Please trust me on this, try it out, and let me know what you think. 🙂

  • 2 eggs, and 2 egg whites
  • 2 tbsp half & half
  • 4 chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce, diced, seeds/veins removed
  • 4 swiss chard leaves, washed and torn (2 leaves for each sandwich)
  • 4 thin slices Pepper Jack cheese (Tillamook is my favorite at the moment)
  • 2 tbsp good mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 4 slices of your favorite bread (although I love the nuttiness of whole grain breads – I think they add another dimension of taste and texture)
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • s&p

Mix the mayonnaise, cilantro, and lime juice together to create the dressing/spread.  Taste for s&p seasoning (careful, mayo can be pretty salty on its own), and set aside.

Heat the grapeseed oil in a small (French omelet size) non-stick pan on medium heat.  Whisk the eggs, egg whites, and half & half together, and add the diced chipotle peppers.  Add mixture to the pan, and let sit for a bit to cook the bottom.  With a spatula, gently pull the sides away from the pan, tipping the pan so some of the raw egg falls under the cooked area.  When only a small amount of raw egg is on the top of the frittata, put a plate (or accompanying pan lid) on the top of the pan, flip the pan so the frittata falls onto the plate/lid.  Then immediately transfer the flipped frittata back to the pan to cook for a minute more (or, if you are really fancy, just flip the pan saute-style so the frittata has an airborne moment, flips 180 degrees and lands perfectly back in the pan.  Say “Ta-Da!” afterwards.  But I recommend doing this over the sink the first few times, to avoid a grumbling significant other cleaning up half-cooked egg on the stove).  NOTE: you can also cook a frittata in the oven at 375, just keep an eye on it as it can go from raw to brown very quickly.

Meanwhile, toast the bread slices.  When frittata is done, transfer to a plate and slice in half.  Layer the mayo dressing, the frittata, the cheese, and the swiss chard into a sandwich.  Slice and serve.

Enjoy!!

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