Friday, December 31, 2010

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello

The author and her three crazy cousins in Orlando

You say goodbye, I say hello... hello, hello.... One of the simplest (lyrics-wise) Beatles songs there is. If you think about it, it has a whole lot to say, however. I could do a round-up this New Year's Eve of my favorite blog posts (I''ll include some), but I do enjoy sharing a little bit of my life here as well.

The photo above is one of my three cousins (well, they're more like little brothers to me and my actual brother, Rob). We took that in Disney World back in March where I was lucky enough to spend a weekend catching up with them and reconnecting. It would be eight months later we all were together again to say goodbye to their dad and my uncle.

This year, for me, has been about re-evaluation in so many ways. The four young people in that photo above have learned more than ever, that staying in touch and saying "I love you" to those you hold dear is more important than ever. A month after losing my uncle to cancer, we lost a dear family friend who was like a second mother to my brother and I. Another sad lesson in making sure you live for the now, the moment, and in the present.

The author on her first trip to Seattle
It was very easy to get lost in a whole lot of sadness this year, but family and friends, they pull you through. So on the eve of 2011, we look forward. We're planning trips together, trips to see each other, to remember those we've lost and celebrate those we have yet to meet.

This blog has been a huge difference in my life in the past six months. I've met people and been part of things I never would have dreamed I would have the opportunity to take part in, and 2011 will only bring more of those experiences. I've made new friends in the process who are amazing people. This blog has me looking towards the future and opportunities I have never even dreamed of.

For those who read this every week, I toast you today and thank you for being a part of this journey. I hope my posts in 2011 get you thinking a little more, cooking a little more, and tasting all the parts of life a little more.

I do make resolutions every year. I think they allow me to enter the New Year with goals, whether I accomplish them or not.

I resolve this year to be happier, whatever it takes. I resolve this year to be healthier. I resolve this year to draw my family and friends closer and keep them there. I resolve to get those little parts of "me" back that I may have lost throughout the years. I resolve to make a plan for the future, and capitalize on the things I dream about. I resolve to do all these things, because I deserve them, and my family and friends deserve the best "me" in their lives.

I promised you food, and here you go. While this blog has been around in some form or another since January 2008, it only really found its focus this past May. That focus is celebrating local eating in a sensible, but not overwhelming way. I still want to teach people that you don't have to go out of your way to eat locally and mindfully. Baby steps towards a larger goal of better food. Here are some of my favorites in case you missed them early on.

Thank you again for reading and I can't wait for more food adventures in 2011!

Corn and Blueberry Muffin Pies

Corn and Blueberry Muffin Pies
Honey Whole Wheat Apple and Cheddar Muffins
Peach and Cardamon Crisp
Pumpkin Risotto
Italian Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Soup
Sage and Ricotta Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Peaches
Summer Bounty Bacon Lasagna
Snickerdoodle-Eggnog Cookie Pies
Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding

Goodbye 2010. Hello 2011 from New England!

Casco Bay, Maine
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Havarti Chicken Chili

I'll be honest, some food, well, it just doesn't photograph well. This chili is one of those dishes. I promise you, however, that it is extremely tasty and probably one of the easiest things you'll ever put together. It's perfect for this week after Christmas. Your motivation is shot (like mine), you have a to-do list that's growing (got one of those too), and you'd rather curl up in a blanket, sip some wine and emerge in the new year, fabulous and ready to take on the world (right?). This dish is your friend for such a week.

Another plus to this chili is that it's made up of almost entirely pantry ingredients. Pick up a rotisserarie chicken (or take out the leftovers from a roast) and pick up a block of good Havarti cheese and you're good to go. Oh, and did I mention it's a crock pot recipe? Even better, you can throw all this stuff into the pot, give it a stir and let it cook away until you'll ready to eat. I found this recipe last year sometime, and it's been in winter rotation since.

I'm lucky enough that my local farm actually sells local rotisserie chicken (how fabulous is that?). The rest of the jarred/canned ingredients are usually things I try to avoid, but contrary to popular belief you can find natural varieties of jarred salsa (please don't use fresh in this, it doesn't turn out well) and the canned beans (I found a natural kind at my regular supermarket). You CAN use light Havarti cheese here if you'd like. I've found the Trader Joe's Light Havarti works well. You might just get some clumps of cheese at the end because light cheese, in general, doesn't melt as well as full-fat. Top it all off with some yummy sour cream and some tortilla chips and you're good to go!

Havarti Chicken Chili
Source: Wine a bit... you'll feel better
Serves: 6-8

1-2 pounds of cooked chicken (the meat from one small rotisserie chicken works well here)
1 16-ounce jar of salsa (not fresh, that doesn't work here)
1 48-ounce can of Great Northern Beans (do NOT drain them)
8-ounce package of Havarti cheese (plus extra for topping), shredded (melts better)
2 teaspoons cumin

Mix all your ingredients together in the crock pot. Give them all a stir so everything is coated in everything else. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with your tortilla chips, sour cream and some extra cheese. One more great thing about this recipe, it re-heats very well! Pin It

Friday, December 24, 2010

Nutella Sea Salt Fudge, Chocolate Rolo Cookies and Chocolate Kissed Prezels, Oh MY!

Merry Christmas Eve to all those who celebrate it! For all of you who don't know, my day job is being a television news producer in Boston. Other than the husband, my dear co-workers help me test all my products out. Truth be told, they get my baked goods because I cannot have them sitting in the house, looking at me. 
I am so lucky to have a staff of amazingly talents producers and writers than I'm honored to work beside each and every night. I wanted to thank them in some small way. I decided to give them the gift of sweets this holiday season. I also wanted to try out some new recipes I had stumbled across in my trusty Google Reader. 

Now, before I continue on this Christmas Eve, I would like a moment to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season. Whatever it is you celebrate (or don't), I hope you're happy and healthy and with friends and family. Since starting this journey on this blog, I've met some amazing people and have touched a lot of people I still have had yet to meet. I hope you enjoy this little corner of my life, I certainly enjoy bringing it to you!

Now, to food: All three of these lovely treats were a favorite of someone in the newsroom at some point or another last night. I promised I'd post all the links (and my thoughts) to the recipes because they really are fabulous. While you check these beyond yummy recipes out, also check out the blogs they're attached to, there's some amazing work in the below sites, and they'll leave you hungry. Let's start with that Nutella Sea Salt Fudge you see above. 

Nutella Sea Salt Fudge

I found this little gem on the great blog "Cookin Canuck: Nutella Sea Salt Fudge". Dara is the author of the site, a mom of two cute boys, and very talented in the kitchen. She wasn't kidding when she said this comes together easily and is super impressive. Just leave yourself enough time (about 2 hours) for the fudge to cool in the fridge. I doubled the recipe and poured into a 9x13 baking dish which worked perfectly. Do NOT skip the parchment paper step, it makes this all SO much easier. Do not walk, but RUN, to the store to get everything you need for this recipe.

Chocolate Rolo Cookies

I love me some Rolos. Seriously, ask the husband. When we head north (to Canada) to visit family and friends, I buy anything Rolo related (especially the ice cream). Yes, you can get those chocolate/caramel pieces of heaven in the U.S., they just don't put it into all kinds of treats here like they do in Canada (and don't get me started on the lack of Coffee Crisps down here). I digress. After a bite into one of these cookies, my anchor proclaimed, "That might be the best cookie I've ever had". I can't disagree, it's up there. You bite into what you think is a chocolate cookie to get the Rolo surprise in the middle. 

I found this recipe on "Two Peas and their Pod: Rolo Cookies". The blog is about the cooking adventures of Utah couple, Maria and Josh. I have a TON of their recipes bookmarked. Check the site out and I'm sure you'll do the same. 

The only thing I'll add to this recipe is that it's TOTALLY adaptable. I used mostly Rolos in the middle, but also did a batch with Peppermint Patties and Miniature Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. All three came out amazing. The husband especially liked the Reese's one. My biggest hint with these cookies is to completely cover the candy with the dough. You get a larger sized cookie with this recipe, and hey, it's the holidays - that's OK. Enjoy with a tall glass of milk please!

Chocolate Kissed Pretzels (or Rolo Pretzels)
Chances are you've come across these in the past. A LOT of people make some variation of these sweet treats. It's totally understandable too because they're super easy and basic and totally yummy.

All you need is:
- Bag of small pretzels, preferably the small rings, but I couldn't find them, so I went with mini regular ones 
- Bag o' Hershey Kisses (or Rolos again if you'd like)
- Bag o' M&M's (totally optional)

Get that oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (which, by the way, is NOT wax paper. Don't put wax paper in the oven, it burns and smells awful). Now place as many pretzels as you need or want on that lined baking sheet. Place a Hershey Kiss (or Rolo, or any small candy really) on each pretzel. Pop them in the oven for 2 minutes until soft, but keeping their "kiss" shape. Take those yummies out of the oven, press a little M&M into each and throw them in the fridge to harden up. Once they've cooled, you can pretty much throw them into any kind of container you'd like and they'll last for a week or so (but I highly doubt you won't eat them by then).
Happy Holidays to you all!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Holiday Scalloped Potatoes

It's very easy this time of year to get caught up in the business of the holidays. You search for that perfect gift, shopping hastily and wrapping even more so. It's easy to forget that simple moments with your family (whatever form that takes) is the real reason the holidays can be so magical. 

We've had a rough few months in our family. We lost two very close family members to cancer within the past month or so, one just last week. I debated sharing this, but I think it's a good reminder of what's important in life, especially during this season. You would think because of such a great loss the holidays would be muted this year. They are definitely more understated but still as joyous. The two loved ones we lost, they loved Christmastime. They would want us to toast them and celebrate with one another. We did, and it was seriously heart-warming.

Gordie and Gabbie would like to say Happy Holidays!
We had my side of the family's Christmas a little early this year. My dad lives in Dallas and he flew up here to celebrate with us this weekend. So in our little Newburyport bungalow - my dad, my mom, my husband, brother and uncle all gathered for some holiday cheer this past weekend. I took to the task of cooking the feast, while my amazing husband readied the house for our guests. I looked to the bounty I had stocked up from my Winter CSA share at Heron Pond Farm for my cue of what to serve with the gorgeous beef roast we were having.

I'll be sharing a few recipes from our early Christmas feast in the hopes if you're undecided on what to put on your table this coming weekend, maybe something I put in here might just help you decide. Today's offering is Cooks Illustrated's Holiday Scalloped Potatoes. Now I put this disclaimer in quite a bit - "lighter" in this blog's title doesn't necessarily mean "low-calorie or low-fat". Some of these recipes are quite healthy, but some, are the exact opposite. Lighter in this blog's case tends to mean a "lighter attitude" towards a local eating style. This next dish, well, there's a reason you only bring it out at the holidays. 

Holiday Scalloped Potatoes
Serves: 8-10

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, minced
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3 cups heavy cream 
1 cup whole milk
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons table ssalt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 pounds russet potatoes (I used whatever mix I had from the farm), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch-thick
slices (use a food processor with slicing attachment if you have one, makes this all so much quicker!)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 ounces, I used Cabot's Extra Sharp)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven oven medium heat until foaming subsides, about a minute. Add onion and saute until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds or so until you can smell it. Add cream, milk, thyme, bay leaves, salt pepper and potatoes and bring to a simmer. Cover, adjusting heat as necessary to get a light simmer until potatoes are almost tender. This all takes about 15 minutes. 

Remove and discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Pour potato mixture into a large au gratin dish (in my case a 9x13 pyrex baking dish was just fine). Sprinkle the top with all your cheese and then put into the oven and bake until cream has thickened and top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes before serving and enjoy!

(Note - if you want to slice up your potatoes in advance, put them into a large bowl with the cream and the milk in the fridge, that will prevent them from discoloring. )

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dorie Greenspan's Swedish Apple Cake and a Holiday Potluck

I've been very lucky since I've started this blog to meet some really amazing people. The food blogging community is quite a special thing. Yes, there's sometimes competition, but it's mostly friendly. Honestly, it's one of the most supportive communities I've ever encountered. Food bloggers cheer each other on and give pats on the back when someone succeeds. Just like every other community, we celebrate around the holidays with one another.

As you all know by now, I live on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The food blogging community up here is a talented and very supportive bunch. So when Kristen of North Shore Dish gracefully offered up her home for a North Shore Food Blogger Holiday Potluck, I was really excited. Too often in the world of food blogging do you converse for months on end on twitter, through comments and Facebook; but life is busy, and you don't get to put a real, actual face to a name. This lovely "smorgasbord" event was an awesome chance to do that.

Everyone was asked to "take a cue from the Swedes" and bring a dish to the event. The dishes ran the gamut from Guatemalan meatballs, to meatballs of the Swedish variety, to avocado-crab soup, to a bouche de noel. All were amazing, as we're the spirits we cheers'd each other with. I'll leave the listing of the amazing folks who I got to spend a wonderful evening with to someone else, since with my brain, I'm liable to forget someone and be sad about that. You all know who you are, it was amazing spending time with you, and I hope we can do it again soon.

This Swedish Apple Cake was my offering to the table. Be warned, it's sweet and rich, but isn't that just perfect for the holidays? It's also super easy to throw together and looks amazing. This technically could be a Winter CSA post as well, because I still have a store of apples I've picked up from over the weeks as part of my share. I found the recipe on who found it on Serious Eats, but it all can me traced back to the amazing Dorie Greenspan. Enjoy!

Dorie Greenspan's Swedish Apple Cake
Serves: 8-10

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 extra-large egg or 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled (you should have about a 1/2 cup of melted butter)
1 to 1 1/2 apples, peeled and sliced
apple or apricot jam, for glazing the cake.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, baking, powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In another bowl, beat the egg, vanilla and sugar until pale and smooth. Add the cooled melted butter and beat until smooth and shiny. Add the flour mixture, and mix with a spatula until everything in combined.

Scrape into a buttered 9-inch springform pan. You can use a pie dish or cake pan as well but it can be difficult to get the finished cake out of the pan without cracking it.

Top the batter with your apple slices and bake about 35 minutes or until the top is browned and the apples are tender.

Heat up a bit of the apple or apricot jam or jelly in a saucepan until liquid, adding some water if necessary. Brush glaze over the top of the cake and enjoy! Pin It

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Boston Brunchers: KO Catering and Pies

Fantastic Sausage Rolls

Those are sausage rolls and they're amazing. My several years long search for such a thing has ended at KO Catering and Pies in South Boston. There's a bakery in a suburb of Vancouver, B.C. that my husband (then boyfriend or fiance) used to stop at and pick us up a few. I haven't been able to find something similar until now.

I was lucky enough to join Katie, Renee, Daisy, Athena, Elizabeth, Jason, and Rachel at KO Catering and Pies as part of our Boston Brunchers group. Basically, every month a few of Boston's (and New England's) brunches take part in some tasty breakfast somewhere in the Boston area.

This morning, it was "brekky" as KO Catering and Pies likes to put it. The shop is on A Street in South Boston, but the Australian meat pie company will soon be taking to the streets of Boston in their new food truck. Theirs will certainly be one I hunt down religiously when I'm in the city.

Yummy meat pies!

Their shop in South Boston is cozy and perfect for striking up a conversation with another random meat-pie lover. Their main business, however, is "take-away" of their awesome meat pies and sausage rolls.

Cute re-heating instructions
The Boston Brunchers were not going to miss an opportunity to take home some tasty morsels from out of the case. I took home an Irish Beef Stew and a Classic Meat and Cheese. You even get a little card to take home telling you how to properly heat up your meat pie. You want to do it in the oven, because as our gracious hostess Kara told us, there's no artificial anything in their products so some of the flavor and freshness would be lost if you heated it up in the microwave. Let's just say, the husband and I have tried both pies at this point and both were fabulous and comforting treats!

Corn Fritters with Avocado and Bacon
Back to "brekky", however, since that is what KO Catering and Pies was hosting us for! I chose the Corn Fritters with Avocado and Bacon. The fritters were perfect, light, yet substantial and filling. The avocado and greens salad on the side was a great accompaniment . The bacon was a real surprise. It was, thick, well-seasoned and done perfectly, crispy, but not burnt. The combination was a pure winner.

Katie's Croque Madame

I'd be remiss if I didn't include a description of my table-mate Katie's Croque Madame. It's provolone and ham sandwiched between two large pieces of sourdough bread with a perfectly done egg on the top. Seriously, it's beautiful and according to Katie, it was tasty as well!

Sourdough with vegemite
We actually started our breakfast with some amazing toasted sourdough bread spread with an Australian favorite, Vegemite. It's description is an "enriched yeast spread". I'm going to say that description doesn't do it justice. It almost has a meaty flavor and is very salty. It's good on top of sourdough but certainly is an acquired taste for most.

Sticky Date Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce
Now, I didn't have a bite of this, but it looked fantastic. It's a sticky date bread with butterscotch sauce. It's served with vanilla ice cream and from the looks on the faces of those who tried it, it was very good.  

I had a great time and a great "brekky" at KO Catering and Pies with the Boston Brunchers crew. A huge thank you to KO Catering and Pies for hosting us for the morning! KO Catering and Pies on Urbanspoon
The Boston Brunchers!
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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Snickerdoodle-Eggnog Cookie Pies

"Some people have a very personal reaction to eggnog."

This is my disclaimer as people approached my desk to see what my little container held this week. You see, just like the husband is my guinea pig for my creations, my workplace is the same, just on a bigger scale. My co-workers know when they see a little plastic container or a plate on my desk, treats are in store for them. 

The treat du jour? It's the "Snicker-Nog Cookie Pie". Yes, I gave it a cute nickname, sue me. I wasn't kidding about the disclaimer, either. Some people, do indeed, have a violent reaction to the idea of eggnog. Some people, like me, love the stuff and find ways to use it everything (hello, cream replacement in my morning coffee). Others won't touch the stuff, even if you do load it with copious amounts of alcohol. 

Fear not, nog haters, even you can appreciate this recipe (well, at least the non-nog lovers at my place of employment were a-ok with this one). You see, I was thinking about where I wanted to start with egg nog and baking when the lovely snickerdoodle came to mind. I love those cinnamon-sweet cookies. So, I wanted snickerdoodles, but I thought their spiciness would pair lovely with the eggnog, especially in a frosting form. Boom, it was on.

This recipe is part of Pretty Mommy's Holiday Recipe Exchange. You may remember my Corn, Leeks and Potatoes Two Ways post for Pretty Mommy's Fall Recipe Exchange. Well, the first exchange went so smashingly, a holiday version was born. 

Disclaimer: As sometimes happens on this blog, this recipe is neither lighter nor local. It just tastes good.

Snickerdoodle-Eggnog Cookie Pies (or Snicker-Nog Cookie Pies)

Makes: 15 cakes (with leftover frosting)
Cookie Recipe from Cooking Light
Frosting Recipe adapted from Beantown Baker (originally Cooks Illustrated 1997)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (187.5 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
For cookie coating
1/3  cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees 
Combine 3/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla and egg. 
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife or weigh. Combine flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to butter mixture, beat just until combined. Shape dough into 30 balls (does seem crumbly sometimes, it's fine). 
Combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon in a small shallow dish. Roll balls in sugar mixture and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Back at 400 for 8 minutes or until tops crack. Remove from pans, cool on wire rack.

Now while those cookies are a-coolin', you're going to make the frosting.

Eggnog Frosting
20 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (10 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon rum extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons eggnog (I enjoy the stronger Hood Golden Eggnog variety)

In a standing mixer (with a whisk or paddle attachment, I always use the paddle), beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds.

Add confectioners' sugar and salt, beat at medium-low speed, until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined about 15 seconds.

Now add your vanilla and rum extracts, your cinnamon and nutmeg, and finally your eggnog. Beat the mixture on medium speed, about 10 seconds until everything is combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy (about 4 minutes), stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl at least once during that time. 

So you've got your frosting and your cookies done. Now simply take a spoonful of frosting, place it in the middle of a cookie and squish that frosting down with another cookie. If you'd like, roll the sides of the cookie pie (the frosting) in sprinkles or decorative candy for a pretty little effect.

You will have some frosting leftover. You can either make another batch of cookies or eat it straight, totally up to you! Enjoy!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Squash Couscous Cakes over Kale

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I'm getting kind of sick of squash. Let me tell you, I love the stuff, but I do think I've eaten enough of it this fall so that I may be turning orange. I shouldn't be sick of it. It's good for you, versatile, and can hold up an entire meal on its own. This year, so far, I've made soups, salad, pasta and a thousand sides with the gourds. I've been warned about hitting this point in your Winter CSA. There is a lot of squash and a lot of kale. Luckily, I love both, but sometimes, it's time for a break.

I could just stop, but I'm not a waster. In the big bowl on my kitchen counter there are several butternuts and a couple of other winter squashes that are staring me down. They will be prepared in some fashion or another. It was time to get a little bit creative for two reasons. The first is that I really didn't have a whole lot of food other than produce in the house. Second, I needed to do something new with the squash. So I stared into the depths of the pantry for a while to figure out with what I could pair a lonely acorn squash.

The homely and simply little couscous cake was born. A box of whole wheat couscous, some roasted squash and some cheddar cheese came together for this one. It's a cheap meal, but filling and a great lunch you could have at home or on the go.

Squash Couscous Cakes over Kale
Serves: 4

1 acorn squash (any kind will do)
2 cups prepared whole wheat couscous
1/2 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

1 bunch kale, leafs cut from stems and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

First set your oven to 350 degrees. Cut that squash in half, scoop out the seeds and the stringy parts. Place halves face-down in a baking dish coated in cooking spray and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes until fork-tender. Scoop squash flesh out of each of the halves and set aside.

While your squash is roasting, prepare your couscous according to the directions (I made enough for two cups worth, or two servings this recipe calls for). Once done, set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine squash, couscous, cheddar, onion, cinnamon and salt and pepper. Once combined, add slightly beaten egg and stir to coat the mixture. In a large skillet, heat 1.5 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  Form mixture into small cakes and fry in heated oil on each side about 5-7 minutes until each side is browned. Transfer to a plate, cover to keep warm and set aside.

In that same skillet, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kale to the skillet, salt and pepper and cook until kale cooks down a little bit, but is still slightly crunchy.

Serve cakes over kale and enjoy! Pin It

Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Cider-Glazed Carrots

Sometimes simple is best. After a week of being pretty much couch or bed-bound, I wasn't going to get into anything fancy this Sunday night. Usually, I like to try my hand at something new on a quiet end-of-the-weekend evening, but I just didn't have the gumption to forge on. This isn't always a bad thing, however. We had a nice little frozen turkey pot pie from one of our local farms, and I had lots of potatoes and lots of carrots.

It's chilly in New England now. The heat is finally always needed and the heavier coats of winter have made their first appearance. Pot pie, cheddar smashed potatoes and glazed carrots sounds comforting and a simple Sunday supper. The cider-glazed carrots are a side that's always welcome in our house. Carrots from my winter CSA share from Heron Pond Farm are wonderfully sweet right now so this recipe is an easy progression from their natural state. Enjoy!

Cider-Glazed Carrots
Serves 4

1 pound of carrots, washed, trimmed, peeled and slice
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
pinch of salt and pepper
1/4 cup apple cider
1/4 cup water

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the 2.5 tablespoons of butter. When melted, add in brown sugar, stirring to combine the mixture. At this point, you can add your carrots to the pan, turning to coat them in the butter and sugar mixture. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and add you cider and water. Bring the mixture up to a boil and then back down to a simmer for 15-20 minutes until your carrots are tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Serve hot! Pin It

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Cabot's Broccoli Cheddar Soup

Hello faithful and new readers! I'm sorry for the bit of a break this week. The flu and cold fairy decided she'd make a stop at my house this week. The only gourmet thing I've been making every night is TheraFlu (which, by the way, does not compare to NeoCitran, right Canadian readers? NeoCitran is awesome). Although a cough has stayed with me, I finally had enough energy to whip up a simple, easy, hearty soup for a chilly New England day.

I had luck in having everything to make this because of two reasons: One, the broccoli from my Heron Pond Farm Winter CSA share was still in awesome shape after about a week in my crisper. I'm telling you people, you buy local, you have so much more time to use produce AND it still tastes amazing after some time in the fridge. Two, I was lucky enough to win blocks of Cabot Extra Sharp, Seriously Sharp, Racers' Edge and Reduced Fat cheddar and a cute little cutting board from Cabot and New England through a Yummy Mommy's Eyes. Please check out Michele's blog, she has some awesome stuff there and the cutest bunch! I've sung Cabot's praises on this blog before, their products are top notch and I love the Vermont dairy farmers they support.

On a side note - I was psyched to see my Pumpkin Roll with Ginger Cream Cheese Filling on Foodbuzz's Top 9 this week! Foodbuzz is the lovely company that places those ads on the side of my site. They pick 9 great recipes and food photos a day out of all of the submissions they get in 24 hours. It's a cool little accomplishment and if you're reading my blog because you found it through the Top 9 this week, welcome!!

Cabot's Broccoli Cheddar Soup
Source: Cabot Cheese
Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons Cabot Salted Butter (I only had the unsalted Cabot, so I added a teaspoon of salt)
2 cups peeled and diced boiling potatoes (about 2 medium)
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 can chicken broth (14.5 ounces)
2 cups milk
3 cups broccoli (chopped florets and thinly sliced stems)
8 ounces Cabot Sharp or Extra Sharp Cheddar, grated (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (omitted, since I was out of lemon)
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional and added to the Cabot recipe)

In a large saucepan or dutch oven, melt butter (and a teaspoon of salt if you're using unsalted butter) over medium heat. Add potatoes and onion and stir until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

Add flour and cook, stir for 2 minutes longer. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add broccoli and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes longer.

Remove from the heat and stir in cheese. Add smoked paprika and lemon juice if using and finally, salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty bread or crispy crackers and enjoy! Pin It

Monday, November 29, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Pumpkin Roll with Ginger Cream Cheese Filling

I know, the time for pumpkin kind of ends with Thanksgiving really, doesn't it? Well, there's a small obsession with it here in this house so we'll just forge on here with one more pumpkin recipe. I've done cupcakes, muffins, cakes, pasta, soup, and pies, but on this round, like with the Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding, I wanted something that didn't appear often in my house.

In the past I would shy away from the roll cake. Any kind, I wouldn't make it. Several years back I had one pretty much fall apart on me at a key moment of baking for a crowd and didn't really want to experience that again. I had time this morning, however, so why not give it another run, eh? I'm glad I did. Several years filled with a lot more baking experience than I had when I first tried to bake a roll cake, served me well. This is fabulous.

You can create the frosting with fresh ginger as well if you have it on-hand. I love fresh ginger, but I'm also a huge advocate in this blog for creating things with what you may have in the pantry or the fridge so this frosting version uses ground ginger and crystallized ginger instead of the fresh.

Speaking of refrigerators, I have exciting news. I was drawn in by those shiny Black Friday fliers and somehow convinced the husband that we should finally ditch (or re-purpose) the side-by-side fridge that came with our house, which I hate. I can't even fit a pizza box in that thing (and yes, we eat frozen pizza from time-to-time in this house, everything in moderation folks). So, the GE stainless steel french-door bottom freezer we've been looking at for a while was on sale for a smashing price. We bought it. Isn't it pretty? In the next couple of weeks it will appear at our door to my screams of joy. I'm officially ecstatic about a new fridge. I call it the first step in what will be a slow, but sure, kitchen renovation here in the bungalow.

So enough of my awesome find and onto the Pumpkin Roll!

Pumpkin Roll with Ginger Cream Cheese Filling
Roll adapted from Straight from the Farm
Frosting from 101 Cookbooks
Serves 10-12

2/3 cup pumpkin puree (best if fresh, instructions are here)
3 eggs, room temperature (this is super important for your roll. If they're cold, place in a bowl and then place bowl in a lukewarm water bath until the chill is taken off)
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (or 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, both work)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (heaping)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh would be awesome)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch of allspice
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional, and I did not use)

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups confectioner's (icing) sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 375 and prepare a jelly roll pan (or like I did, a baking pan with a 1/2 inch lip around all sides) by lining it with parchment (not wax, I always find it burns in the oven) paper and spraying it with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin and mix well. Over a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking soda (and powder if using), cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Slowly add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients until dry mixture is just incorporated.

Pour the batter out onto your prepared pan, using a spatula to make sure it reaches all sides and is even. Bake for 12-15 minutes until a finger pressed lightly on the top does not get covered in cake (and I found, bounced back slightly). It's important not to over bake here or you won't get a good roll. Now, spread out a clean kitchen towel and sprinkle it with confectioner's sugar. Invert the baking pan onto the towel, allow the cake to fall out. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake (working inward from the corners). Now, while the cake is still hot, roll it up in the kitchen towel and allow to cool like that for 20 minutes.

While the cake is cooling, make the filling. Using an electric mixer (stand or hand-held), cream together the butter and cream cheese until creamy. With mixer on low, slowly add the confectioner's sugar a 1/2 cup at a time until completely gone. Increase speed on mixer to medium-high and beat until fluffy. Add crystallized ginger, ground ginger, cinnamon and salt and beat until well mixed.

Once cake has cooled, unroll it from the kitchen towel and spread the entirety of the frosting evenly over the cake. Working from one side, proceed to slowly roll the cake up. Cut off each end to make it nice and pretty.

It's fabulous for Thanksgiving or a little morning snack while Black Friday shopping. So, I bought my new fridge, did you guys score any deals? Pin It

Friday, November 26, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking - Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding

I know, I know, you're probably saying to yourself, "really? more pumpkin?". It's true. I, however, put together two great recipes for Thanksgiving that I just feel the need to share with you. Plus,  you might have some pumpkin puree left, or maybe, like I did, you have pumpkin pie filling leftover.

I've made my share of Fresh Pumpkin Pies over the last month or so. The husband wanted more, but I wanted to be cute with them. See that photo to your left, I made little mini ones. They were a yummy little success, but I needed more dough than I had made and was too lazy to make any more. They were a little shallow in the middle so not as much pumpkin pie filling as I would have liked made it into the center. The result was a whole lots of pumpkin pie filling (with the eggs and cream) leftover.

Then I thought about it, the pumpkin pie filling basically has everything in it that you'd make bread pudding with, especially those eggs and the cream. I knew I had a "on-the-way-out" loaf of fabulous multi-grain bread from our farm share in the fridge. So I cut that baby up into cubes, threw it in a casserole dish and magic was made. This. Stuff. Is. Good. I mean, I'd make it again over and over on purpose. Paired with a big scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, it's simply amazing. I think I might cover it in ice cream AND caramel sauce for my next bowl of it!

Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding
Serves 6-8

5-6 slices good quality bread (I used a multi-grain), cubed

Pumpkin Pie Filling (from Cooks Illustrated)
2 cups (16 ounces) fresh pumpkin
1 cup (7 ounces) packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup milk (whole is recommended, I've used 1% as well)
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a casserole or baking dish with cooking spray, put your bread cubes in there, spreading them out to cover the whole bottom, set dish aside.

In a food processor, process pumpkin, dark brown sugar, spices, and salt about 1 minute until combined. Transfer pumpkin mixture to a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a sputtering simmer over medium-high heat. Cook pumpkin until shiny, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Whisk the heavy cream and milk into the pumpkin mixture, and bring to a bare simmer. Process the eggs in the food processor until yolks and whites are just combined. With the motor running, pour half of the pumpkin mixture back into the processor through the feed tube. Stop and add the remaining pumpkin. Process 30 seconds until combined.

Take pumpkin pie filling and pour, evenly, over bread cubes in your baking dish. Throw that piece of heaven in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until the bread springs back lightly from a touch. Pin It

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Sausage, Kale, and Bean Soup (and Brussels Sprouts Salad!)

I have a new love affair. Actually, I have two. Kale and brussels sprouts are on my mind this week. In preparation for the big Thanksgiving feast (and my comfort food binge this weekend), I wanted something healthy, something I wouldn't feel bad about in between the weekend and the holiday. What I came up with is an easy weeknight soup that can be modified just about any way you want. I used kale in this hearty soup, but you could easily use any other green, or broccoli, or pretty much any other vegetable you think would go well. This is one of those soups that if you have a CSA share like I do, you can get away with dumping in whatever leftovers you might have at the end of the week and clear our that produce bin.

I mentioned I'm also in love with brussels sprouts this week. One of my favorite food bloggers, Karen Covey, is responsible for this love. Karen writes "Gourmet Recipes for One" and she created what's now one of my favorite recipes of all time for the little green guys - Roasted Brussels Sprouts Salad. That's the salad to your left, isn't it beautiful? It's easily adaptable as well. I didn't have cranberries, or blue cheese, or arugula so I messed with it, instead using Parmesan cheese and napa cabbage that I had on hand. The star of this salad are those sweet roasted sprouts, you have to make this one.

The pairing of this salad and soup is fabulous and a perfect way to lead into Thanksgiving or recover form it, when you finally get sick of turkey. Either way, Happy Thanksgiving!

Sausage, Kale, and Bean Soup
4-6 servings

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
3 links hot Italian Turkey Sausage (or regular, or chicken sausage), removed from casings
5 small shallots, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch kale, chopped roughly
32 oz chicken stock or broth (if you use low-sodium, adjust salt to taste)
1 cup water 
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cannellini beans (roughly 15oz can if using canned)

Warm one teaspoon olive oil in a heavy-bottomed dutch oven over medium heat. Add sausage and proceed to brown, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon along the way. When sausage is nicely browned, transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.

In the same dutch oven (still on medium heat), add a teaspoon of olive oil, and cook shallots and garlic until tender, about 2-3 minutes. Now, push the shallots/garlic to the side of the dutch oven, add a splash of chicken broth and proceed to deglaze the bottom of that dutch oven, getting all those yummy leftover sausage bits into the mixture here. Once bottom of the pan is deglazed, add kale and red pepper flakes, tossing to coat in shallots and garlic. Cook kale until it decreases in size, about 5-6 minutes.

Get that sausage you have sitting there and put it back into the dutch oven.  You now can now add the rest of your chicken stock and water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring entire mixture to a boil and then right back down to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes and add your beans. Allow to simmer on the stove for another 10 minutes (20 minutes total) and serve piping hot with a little bit of Parmesan cheese on top. Pin It

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking - Cottage Pie

The house gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon these days. Cozy sweaters have replaced the thin ones of fall. Storm windows have replaced the screens on the windows. Mittens are appearing in the entryway of the house. The time for comfort is here, winter is sitting on our doorstep.

The husband and I, we're homebodies. Once the temperature drops, so does our motivation to leave the cozy confines of our little bungalow. Don't get us wrong, we love a good meal out at the local pub or a special meal out at a new place. Our travels often revolve around menus and restaurants. Truth be told, however, our favorite meals are ones shared on a weekend night, at home, together with the pugs, and a bottle of red wine.

Saturday nights in the winter also means Hockey Night in Canada in our house. Yes, we live in New England, but the husband hails from near Toronto, Ontario and spent 10 years in Vancouver, British Columbia before moving here to Massachusetts to be with me. NHL Network here in the States carries the first game of Hockey Night in Canada (usually the Toronto Maple Leafs game, my husband's team). So on wintertime Saturday nights, I like to make a cozy meal here at home in my PJ's and settle in with some wine and enjoy a quiet night with the husband and dogs.

This week's comfort fare satisfied a week-long craving for Cottage Pie. Some of you may look at this and say, "isn't that really Shepherd's Pie?". Actually, when made with ground beef (which I still prefer to ground lamb), it's really Cottage Pie. The best part about a meat pie? You can basically put whatever leftover vegetables you have in it. I used up carrots, peas, green beans and potatoes in this dish. Greens or root vegetables could be added as well. Although I used my leftover turnips in another Turnip Gratin since the husband likes them so much. Cottage pie recipes are easy to find out there, but the challenge is finding one that really produces flavorful meat. Too many of them are bland - this one is not one of those recipes.

Cottage Pie
Serves 6-8

1 pound potatoes (skinned if you don't have a ricer)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/4 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons butter (divided into 4 and 2)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup beef broth
2 tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
3/4 cup half and half
1 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup green beans, chopped
1/2 cup peas
3/4 cup cheddar, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place potatoes in a large pot, cover with cold water and cook until fork-tender over medium-high heat, about 30 minutes.

While potatoes are cooking, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large skillet, add ground beef and brown. Drain off any excess fat and add onion and garlic to the skillet, cooking for 2-3 minutes. Now you can add the dry mustard and the Worcestershire Sauce and stir to coat all the beef. Push the ground beef mixture to one side of skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter and add flour, whisking together to create a little roux. Whisk beef broth into roux area of the pan, once combined, stir into beef mixture. Allow everything to come to a simmer and reduce down a bit, about 7-10 minutes. Once reduced, add tomato paste and stir to combine, keep warm over low heat.

Meanwhile, take the cooked potatoes, drain, and if not skinned, pass through a ricer back into the now-empty pot they cooked in. Take the 4 tablespoons of butter, melt it, and then add to potatoes along with half and half and salt to taste.

Take a baking dish (9-inch deep pie, or casserole dish) and pour beef mixture in, and spread with a spatula to cover the bottom. Now, add all of your fresh vegetables as the second layer and finally spreading the mashed potatoes over the top as the last layer.

Place into oven on top of a baking sheet to catch any spillover. Bake for 25 minutes until top of mashed potatoes are golden. Sprinkle cheddar over the top and bake for an extra 5-7 minutes until cheese is melted. Take out of oven and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before serving. Pin It

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking - Catching up

That's my stalk of brussel sprouts from the farm share this week. I love the look of the little sprouts on the stalk. Can food be cute? I think so.

It's been quite a week in our household. It started with a whirlwind trip to Chicago to say goodbye to my dearest uncle and celebrate his life. There's something about seeing the entire family, even under the worst of circumstances, that leaves a lot of light in your heart. Even though we live over thousand miles apart, we can still come together and laugh when our souls really need it. 

Life has kept me from keeping a consistent blogging schedule. I am, however, determined to give it a go. I miss the rundowns of my grocery list on Sundays I used to put out there from the local farmers' market. I think one of my ultimate goals in this blog is to help people eat seasonally, locally and to make both of those things easy. Meal planning plays a huge part in keeping it simple. I'd love to get back to that. 

So the current plan is to have Sunday's post reflect what's in my share and on my grocery list for the week and what I plan on doing with it. It's also time to catch up to see where last week's purchases went. I'll look at cost where I can, however, since most of our produce is coming from the share, and that share was a birthday gift from my mother (who I share with) - it won't be a complete look at cost. I'll try my best to consider it in the planning process. 

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, when my life allows, will be recipe or review posts. I, like so many other bloggers, have a full-time job, family, and volunteer position which always keeps me hopping. This blog is my therapy. Writing about something I love (food), seriously gets me through the week. I hope you continue to enjoy my offerings and it helps you eat locally, seasonally, and well. 

Winter CSA Share, Heron Pond Farm, Week of 11/21

This is the pre-Thanksgiving share so it's larger than usual to help all of us enjoy a more regional Thanksgiving feast. I work Thanksgiving and we've already celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving so you're not going to see much holiday fare in the planning for this week! 

1 lb broccoli
1 lb cauliflower
2 brussel sprout stalks
2 lbs carrots
4 lbs potatoes
4 onions
1 garlic
6 apples
2 pie pumpkins
2 winter squash
1 bunch Hakurei Turnips
1 bunch swiss chard or kale
1 bok choi or Napa Cabbage

Now that's the full share - my mom and I split it between us. I took more this week because I know I'm more likely to cook through it all than my mother is. Especially since we have some left from last week's share since we were out of town. One of the best things about local produce is that it stays fresher, longer since it's not sitting on a truck for days on end getting to your grocery store. 

My Plan - 
Kale, white bean and sausage soup (or pasta) - I still have kale leftover from last week
Brussel sprouts with bacon and onions
German Apple Pie (I have a backlog of apples, the rest will be snacks)
Swiss Chard will end up in a side dish
I have a butternut squash from last week, and an acorn squash from this week, thinking squash soup.
Pie Pumpkins will be roasted and put in freezer for future pumpkin recipes
Bok choi and cabbage will be sauteed as sides at some point. 

We have steak tips from Tendercrop Farm in the freezer to eat with all of this ($6.49 for a package). I also made Cottage Pie (recipe coming soon) last night which used up a lot of last week's potatoes, carrots, and onions. It was made with the grass-fed beef from Tendercrop ($5.29 a pound), with a side of Turnip Gratin. We're eating a lot less meat as a whole these days with the farm share. It's a good thing, it keeps us healthier.

The week that was...

Not much to recap this week because of our travels. You have to check out the Maple Butternut Squash Penne with Mustard Greens however, because frankly, it was awesome.

So do you meal plan or at least sketch out your cooking week?
Pin It

Friday, November 19, 2010

Winter CSA Cooking: Maple Butternut Squash Penne with Mustard Greens

 It feels good to be back in the kitchen. I've spent the past week saying a final goodbye to a dear uncle who meant the world to myself and my family. I just got back from Chicago, where there were a lot of tears, but also a lot of toasts shared. It's hard to pull yourself out and get back on track after such an event. I've often said that cooking in therapy for me. This week, that's certainly the case.

This week, the husband wanted two things - butternut squash (no more pumpkin) from the CSA and some kind of pasta. I've got a whole lot of stash from last week's share that I haven't gotten to yet, so I wanted to add another element into this pasta. Not long ago, I had a fabulous dinner at Ten Center Street in Newburyport. It comprised of gnocchi in a maple-cream sauce with roasted butternut squash and mustard greens. That dish, was the inspiration for this one. However, I set out to make this dish a little more weeknight friendly. I did create this dish using heavy cream, however, if you'd like to make this a bit healthier, feel free to use 1/2 cup of milk instead and cut back on the pasta water used to thin the sauce.

Maple Butternut Squash Penne with Mustard Greens
Serves: 4

1 small to medium butternut squash, halved, seeds and stringy parts discarded
2 1/2  teaspoons maple syrup, divided
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
1/4 teaspoon cloves, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream (or milk if you'd like, just cut down on pasta water)
1/4- 1/2 cup reserved pasta water (to thin sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped sage
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 pound penne pasta

1 bunch mustard greens, washed, leaves sliced from stem, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place squash halves skin side down in baking dish coated with cooking spray. Drizzle 1 teaspoon olive oil and 1.5 teaspoons maple syrup over the squash. Sprinkle with 1/8 a teaspoon cinnamon and cloves and a dash of salt. Roast for 45 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool several minutes so you can handle it.

At this point, cook pasta according to directions, drain while reserving cooking water. While the penne is cooking, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat, add shallot and garlic, cooking for 2-3 minutes. When shallot and garlic are slightly tender, add mustard greens and cook down over medium heat, until slightly wilted yet a touch crispy.

Now your squash should be cool enough to handle. Scrape out the flesh into a saucepan, add cream, reserved cooking water, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and cloves, 1 teaspoon of maple syrup and a sprinkle of salt. Use an immersion blender to combine, over medium heat. If you don't have an immersion blender, combine all ingredients above in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth and transfer back to sauce pan. Now add chopped sage and freshly grated Parmesan cheese and stir sauce until blended.

Toss sauce with warm pasta and top with the mustard greens and enjoy! Pin It

Friday, November 12, 2010

Banana Bread

I know, this week hasn't been so much about my winter CSA as it has been comfort food. It's been a rough week in our family. On my 31st birthday, I lost my dearest uncle to cancer that same morning. He was an amazing man, much loved and like a second father to me. So, while preparations commence for our family to hit the friendly skies to Chicago for services, this family needed something comforting and familiar to snack on.

This banana bread is a no-fail for me. I found it years ago in my search for a recipe I just loved. Make no mistake, this is NOT a healthy banana bread. The amount of butter used in this recipe negates any fruit health benefit. Here's the good news though, I've made this bread with half a stick of butter and 3/4 of a stick of butter as well and it's turned out just fine. I've also subbed half the butter for one of those omega-3 butter-type products in a pinch and it also turned out just fine. Play with it, and use the amount of fat that you feel comfortable using.

Banana Bread
Source:, M.S. Milliken & S. Feniger 

1 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a loaf pan and set aside.

In one bowl (or a stand mixer bowl) cream the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

In another large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and whisk to combine further.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, add milk and cinnamon and stir.

Finally, add the banana mixture to the sugar/butter mixture and stir to combine. Slowly add flour mixture to the bowl stirring as you go until flour just disappears. Pour into your prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes then turn out onto baking rack to allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Pin It

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Classic Macaroni and Cheese and starting out local

I should have called this "Comfort Food Week" because that's all that's been cooking in this house this week. Meatloaf, mac and cheese and banana bread have all been on the list. I blame it on the weather. It's been cold and rainy here all week.

Today's take on comfort food is classic mac and cheese. There's nothing more rib sticking or comforting than a huge bowl of this stuff. I paired this with a salad of mesclun, apples, radishes (from our winter CSA) with fresh Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinaigrette.

This dish is a good moment to remind everyone that often buying local or regional is always about heading to a local farm or shop (although I recommend you do!). Shopping for local products often doesn't have to stray far from your normal grocery store. I used Cabot cheeses (from VT) and milk from The Organic Cow (which comes from New England cows), both are easily found throughout New England grocery stores. I try to buy my supermarket staples with a focus on region. Most of my dairy products are Cabot (cheese, butter, sour cream); my milk is organic and from New England companies; my flour is King Arthur varieties from Vermont; and I search out other various local companies to buy from just at my local grocery store. If you're lucky enough to have a Whole Foods Market nearby, they often carry local products, artisans and produce from your area.

I love finding local stuff at the supermarket because it's a really great first step for people interested in starting to buy more locally. It's not out of your routine, you just have to do a little research. However, I'm still a fan of frequenting smaller local shops and farms because you're helping your community double. You're getting a local product and supporting a local business. It's a happy medium to find. I know people are busy and often don't have time to hit a bunch of local farms or butchers or shops to get everything they need. However, just knowing what's local or regional at the local supermarket is a great first step towards changing your eating and buying habits to be more local. Now to the food...

Classic Macaroni and Cheese
Source: Cooks Illustrated
Serves: 6-8 or 12 as a side

Bread Crumb Topping
6 slices white sandwich bread (I used fresh baguette), torn into rough pieces
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold), cut into 6 pieces

Pasta and Cheese
1 pound elbow macaroni
1 tablespoon table salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
5 cups milk (I used 2%, it works perfect)
8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (2 cups, I prefer Cabot cheeses)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 teaspoon table salt

For the bread crumbs:
Pulse bread and butter in food processor until large crumbs form.

For the pasta and cheese: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat broiler (I only did to 450 degrees). Bring water to boil in Dutch oven over high heat. Add macaroni and 1 tablespoon salt; cook until pasta is tender. Drain pasta and set aside in a colander.

In the now-empty Dutch oven, heat butter over medium-high heat until foaming. Add flour, mustard, and cayenne and whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk; bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly, bringing mixture to a full boil to thicken. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in cheeses and 1 teaspoon salt until cheeses are fully melted. Add pasta and stir to coat and cook for several minutes until mixture is fully heated and steaming.

Transfer mixture to a broiler-safe 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Broil until crumbs are deep golden brown about 3-5 minutes. Rotate pan, if necessary, to get even browning. Cool for 5 minutes and serve. Pin It