Friday, January 21, 2011

Week 4: Friday, 1/21 through Thursday, 1/27

Friday, 1/21 - Chicken Packages with Grated Vegetables - COMPLETE
Saturday, 1/22 - Pizza, Broccoli - COMPLETE
Sunday, 1/23 - Mushroom Barley Soup, Orange Pureed Carrots and Multigrain Sandwich Bread - COMPLETE
Monday, 1/24 - Leftover soup, vegetables and bread - COMPLETE
Tuesday, 1/25 - Kasha with onions, Pureed Parsnips - COMPLETE - not good!
Wednesday, 1/26 - Don't remember
Thursday, 1/27 - Tomato Soup with grilled cheese

Monday, January 17, 2011

Homemade Cereal - Graham Nuts

I loved the idea of making my own cereal at home.  It had never occurred to me that I could do such a thing until I saw it in the cookbook Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.  In her description of the recipe, she mentions that she found the recipe that inspired this one in an Amish cookbook.  The only thing I changed this time around was to use table salt instead of kosher salt.  I've tried using coarse kosher salt as she recommends in every other recipe but they've all turned out too salty.  MTH refused to eat the pancakes due to the saltiness.  I don't actually think they are saltier than other things I've made.  I just thing the big grains of salt give more of the salty flavor.  Next time I make these, I'll be using cane syrup (homemade in my hometown) instead of the honey

1 cup graham flour
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (she calls for 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt)
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350.  Spray a little oil on to a baking sheet and line with parchment paper.

Whisk the dry ingredients into a large bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together the buttermilk, honey and vanilla.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix together to form a batter.

Scrape the batter onto the baking sheet and, using a metal offset spatula, spread the batter evenly across the entire surface of the sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and break off any areas of the cracker that are getting dark or dry, and set them on a rack to cool.  I didn't have any pieces to break off at that point.

Turn the oven down to 250, return the baking sheet to the oven, and bake for 55 to 60 minutes more.  Every 20 minutes, break off any more dry sections and put them on the cooking rack.  While you are doing this, break up the rest of the dough into smaller pieces to encourage the dough to the dry out faster, and return the baking sheet to the oven for the remaining time.

Remove the sheet from the oven when the cracker is mahogany brown and entirely dry.  The all the pieces of the crack cook on a rack.

Set up a food processor with a large hole grate attachment.  Feed pieces of the cracker through the tube at the top and grind into nuts.  Serve with cold milk.  They will store in an airtight jar for one month.

How to get everyone in your family to eat vegetables - Pureed Vegetables

Adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

I'm on a pureed vegetable kick!!  We are all inhaling these things almost as fast as I can make them.  LTH likes pureed parsnips the best but he'll also eat without any complaint pureed cauliflower and pureed carrots.  With a little discussion, he also ate the pureed butternut squash.  I wasn't as crazy about it myself though.  We are on our second weekend of me making 3 different pureed vegetables at once.  Then, we had vegetables of the rest of the weekend and for the first part of the following week.  It only took about an hour!

Most root vegetables will work here.  The ones I've tried are carrots, parsnips, cauliflower and butternut squash.  I want to try turnips and rutabagas.
You can also add different flavorings for each vegetables.  The cookbook recommends the following:
Carrots - ginger, orange juice and orange zest - VERDICT: makes the carrots almost like a dessert
Parsnips - sour cream - VERDICT: not needed - just add a little salt and pepper and you're good to go
Cauliflower - ricotta, nutmeg and Parmesan - VERDICT: I haven't tried the ricotta but they were great without it.  I do recommend the nutmeg.  It's an interesting flavor that makes the cauliflower have more taste.
Butternut Squash - roasted garlic - VERDICT: it needed more!! They would have been more palatable with more roasted garlic.  You live and learn.

Cut the vegetable into 1 inch pieces.  Put into pot with water just to the level of the vegetables.  Bring to a boil and cook for 5-10 minutes until cooked through but not mushy.  Although you can use a food processor or a blender to make these purees, I highly recommend investing in a food mill.  The food mill gets rid of any of the fibrous parts of the vegetables versus chopping them into smaller pieces. In the case of the parsnips, you will greatly appreciate the difference.  Once the vegetable is pureed, add the mix ins discussed above or come up with your own seasonings.

We've been using them as our vegetable dish at each meal.  But, I've also heard they can be used as dips for other vegetables or for chips.  They could also be used as a filling for ravioli.  Please post any other ideas!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Week 3: Friday, 1/14 through Thursday, 1/20

1/14 - Baked Southwest Tilapia Tacos and Sweet Potato Fries - COMPLETE
1/15 - Mac and Cheese and Pureed Parsnips with Homemade Oat Soda Bread - COMPLETE
1/16 - Risotto and Pureed Cauliflower with Homemade Oat Soda Bread - COMPLETE
1/17 - Grand arroz con pollo (rice with chicken and vegetables) and Pureed Cauliflower with Homemade Multigrain Bread - COMPLETE
1/18 - Leftover grand arroz con pollo and Pureed Cauliflower with Homemade Multigrain Bread
1/19 - Cleaned out the leftovers from the refrigerator as I didn't have time to make the Kasha due to being home late
1/20 - Out to Firefly in Foggy Bottom for Restaurant Week

My baking plans are:
  • More carrot muffins - VERDICT: did not get these done
  • Oat Soda Bread - another quick bread - VERDICT: not bad but best with butter and cane syrup or preserves - not your healthiest meal or snack
  • Graham Nuts - a homemade cereal in the spirit of grape nuts but hopefully much much better - VERDICT: I loved these!!
  • Everyday Sandwich Bread - I haven't decided if I'm going to go 100% whole wheat or add a portion of another flour - VERDICT: pretty easy and tasty although will add a little more salt next time

Carrot Muffins

Recipe adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons spelt flour
2 tablespoons oat bran
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
pinch of salt (recipe calls for 1/8 teaspoon of kosher salt but I found the topping to be too salty with those bigger grains of kosher salt)
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
Dry Mix:
1 cup spelt flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I think the kosher salt is fine here as it is dissolved into the batter; if you do substitute table salt, be sure to use less than a teaspoon; it is not a 1:1 substitution)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated carrots, about 2 medium
Wet Mix:
2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg

Preheat the over to 350 degrees.  Grease 8 muffin cups and the outer area with 1/3 cup capacity with butter.  If possible, fill alternate cups as these muffins bake out of the cup.

For the streusel topping, measure the flour, oat bran, sugars and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the butter to the dry mixture.  Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits.  Continue rubbing until the mixture feels coarse, like cornmeal.  The more quickly you do this, the more the butter will stay solid.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, puring back into the bowl any bits of grain and other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.  I also sometimes just use a whisk to mix up dry ingredients instead of putting through the sifter.  Stir the carrots into the dry ingredients.

In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk and egg and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Using a spatula, mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Scoop the batter into 8 muffin cups, using a spoon or an ice cream scoop.  The batter should be slightly mounded above the edge.  Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the mounds of batter and press it into the batter slightly.

Bake for 32 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.  The muffins are ready to come out when they smell nutty and their bottoms are a dark golden-brown.  Remove the pans from the oven, twist each muffin out, and place it on its side in the cup to cool.  This ensures that the muffin stays crusty instead of getting soggy.  I think I'll use a cooling rack next time instead.

Also, the book says that these muffins are best when warm from the oven or later that day.  Although they did taste the best that first day, they still tasted good 2-3 days later.  They can also be frozen and reheated.

Week 2: Friday, 1/7 through Thursday, 1/13

Friday, 1/7 - Broiled salmon over pureed cauliflower with whole wheat baguette and sauteed garlic spinach
Saturday, 1/8 - Multigrain pizza with assorted toppings (green pepper, cheese, mushrooms) along with pureed carrots, parsnips and butternut squash (eaten separately)
Sunday, 1/9 - Mushroom barley soup with added vegetables and baguette
Monday, 1/10 - leftover mushroom barley soup
Tuesday, 1/11 - Homemade tomato soup with grilled cheese and green beans
Wednesday, 1/12 - Cheese quesadilla and baked sweet potato
Thursday, 1/13 - I had not planned anything and we ended up with Indian takeout.  LTH had bread, blueberries and banana and was quite happy.

I also made some yummy carrot muffins using spelt on Saturday.  I will making more of these along with other recipes from my new cookbook, Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole Grain Flours.  I hadn't even heard of some of the flours mentioned in this book.  I'm excited to try them out!

Friday, January 07, 2011

Bolognese Sauce (at least 3 hours)

Adapted from Lidia Bastianich's recipe in Lidia's Family Table

Note that I halved the recipe and we had it for dinner two nights, two lunches and froze some!!  The recipe below is the halved version.  Also, I used my food processor for all of the processing and it is a huge timesaver for this recipe.

Interesting side note: I work with a guy from Italy.  He told me that in Naples it's said that Bolognese is the perfect meal for doormen to cook as they have nothing else to do but sit and stir.

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 cup dry white wine
3 oz bacon
3 garlic cloves
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
1 celery stalk, minced in a food processor or finely chopped
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 t salt, plus more to taste
1 cup dry red wine
1 T tomato paste
1 cup canned tomatoes and juices, crushed
4 to 6 cups chicken broth

Put all 2 lbs of ground meat in a large mixing bowl.  Pour the white wine over it and mix it with your hands.  Next, make the pestata - cut the bacon into 1-inch pieces and put them in the bowl of the food processor with the peeled garlic.  Process them into a fine paste.

Pour the olive oil into a heavy saucepan (I used my big Le Creuset pot) and scrape in all of the pestata. Set the pan over medium-high heat.  Break up the pestata and stir it around the pan bottom to start rendering the fat.  Cook for at least 3 minutes, stirring often, until the bacon and garlic are sizzling and aromatic.

Stir the minced onions into the fat and cook for a couple of minutes, until sizzling and starting to sweat.  Stir in the celery and carrot, and cook the vegetables until wilted and golden, stirring frequently and thoroughly over medium-high heat, at least 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up a notch, push the vegetables off to the side and put all of the meat into the pan.  Add the salt.  Give the meat on the pan bottom a few moments to brown, then stir, spread and toss with a sturdy spoon, mixing the meat into the vegetables and making sure every bit of meat browns and begins releasing fat and juices.  Soon the meat liquid will almost cover the meat itself.  Cook at high heat, stirring often, until all of that liquid has disappeared, even in the bottom of the pan.  This will take 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the heat and the width of the pan.  Stir occasionally, and as the liquid level diminishes, lower the heat too, so the meat does not burn.

When all of the meat liquid as has been cooked off, pour in the 1 cup of red wine.  Raise the heat if you've lowered it, and stir the meat as the wine comes to a boil.  Cook until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Now drop the 1 tablespoon of tomato paste into a clear space on the pan bottom.  Toast a minute in the hot spot., then stir with the meat and let caramelize for 2 to 3 minutes.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes.  Bring the liquid to a boil, stirring the meat and let the liquid almost boil off, 5 minutes more.

Pour in 2 cups of hot broth, stir well, and add more if needed to cover the meat.  Bring it to an active simmer, cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain slow, steady cooking with small bubbles perking all over the surface of the sauce.

From this point, the Bolognese should cook for 2-3 hours.  Check the pot every 20 minutes and add hot broth as needed to cover the meat.  The liquid level should be reducing by 1 1/2 to 2 cups between additions;  if it's falling much faster and it takes more than 2 cups to cover the meat, lower the heat to slow the evaporation.  If the sauce level drops slowly or not at all, raise the heat and set the cover ajar to speed concentration.  Stir well at every addition.

During the final cooking interval, you want to reduce the level of the liquid.  At the end, the meat should no longer be covered but appear suspended in a thick flowing sauce.  If the meat is still submerged in a lot of liquid, remove the cover completed to cook off moisture quickly.

A few minutes before the end of cooking, taste a bit of meat and sauce and add salt if you want.

Note that you'll want to spoon off the fat before serving.

Salmon Rillettes

Adapted from two different Epicurious recipes

1 celery stalk, sliced thin
1 onion, sliced thin
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 cup white wine
1 lemon, halved
6 oz salmon filet
sour cream
Dijon mustard
extra virgin olive oil
capers (were not in the initial round of rillettes)
salt and pepper
bread and/or saltines

Bring a large pot of water to simmer.  Add the celery, onion, peppercorns, bay leaf, wine and lemon.  Simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the salmon, cover the pot and remove from the heat.  Let it stand for 10 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the pot and chill it in the refrigerator.  Discard the vegetables and the water.

By hand with a fork, mix the salmon with the sour cream, Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.  Keep chilled until you're ready to serve.

I wanted to add capers as well but didn't have them on hand when I first made the rillettes.  I bought some the next day and added them to the leftovers.  I highly recommend using capers in your recipe.

Week 1: Sunday, 1/2 through Thursday, 1/6

Since I didn't start with the blog on January 1st but I did start the planning with the new year, I'm only going to post the actual menu for that week.

Sunday, 1/2 - Whole wheat linguine with Bolognese Sauce, Butternut Squash with Balsamic Drizzle Sauce, Whole Wheat Baguette
Monday, 1/3 - Leftover bolognese with pasta and butternut squash with balsamic drizzle sauce
Tuesday, 1/4 - Mexican Chicken Soup with Rice and Sauteed Spinach with Garlic
Wednesday, 1/5 - Leftover chicken soup and sauteed spinach
Thursday, 1/6 - Vegetable Stir Fry with Whole Wheat Spaghetti

LTH at some of these items but is currently stuck on cheese, baked sweet potatoes and plain whole wheat pasta.

Cooking in the New Year

As with most people, I have resolved to have a new beginning.  My new beginning is with cooking at home.  We're pretty good about eating at home most of the time but it's not always the most interesting or most tasty foods.  This year I want to take a little up front time to plan so that we can have healthier and tastier meals.

Here's how I'm going to do it:

1. Plan out a week's worth of meals
2. Post the expected week's menu
3. After the meals, post the recipes
4. Update the week's menu with the actual menu

Even if no one reads this blog but me, it will be an exercise that will help me to learn and hopefully become more efficient in my meal planning and preparation.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Graham Flour Recipe

I couldn’t find graham flour at my local Whole Foods.  The people in the store didn't even know what I was talking about!!  I remembered an Alton Brown Good Eats' episode where he told the ratios for making your own graham flour.  The internet is handy for finding such information when you need it.

A fully correct substitute for it would be a mix of white flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ in the ratio found in whole wheat. Wheat comprises approximately 83% endosperm, 14.5% bran, and 2.5% germ by mass[1]. For sifted all-purpose white flour, wheat bran, and wheat germ having densities of 125, 50, and 80 grams/cup, respectively, one cup of graham flour is approximately equivalent to 84 g (~2/3 cup) white flour, 15 g (slightly less than 1/3 cup) wheat bran, and 2.5 g (1.5 teaspoons) wheat germ.

I will be using this flour to make Graham Nuts.  It's a recipe in a new cookbook I received for Christmas.  It's a homemade take on Grape Nuts.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Sweet Potato and Leek Soup (with bacon)

Adapted from Picnics by David Herbert

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carror, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/4 lb sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
2 pints vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream

Cook bacon over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes. Add the leeks, onion, carrot, garlic and sweet potato. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until the leek and onion have softened.

Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 25/30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Purée the soup in a blender in batches.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Makes a big pot of soup. I will be freezing for a future meal.

New Years' Eve Dinner

I previously posted we were planning to make a fancy dinner. We ended up ringing in 2011 with a dinner of appetizers. Yummy!!

Final Menu:
Salmon Rilletes (adapted from two epicurious recipes)
Three French Cheeses with a sliced baguette
Leek and Sweet Potato Soup (from the cookbook Picnics by David Herbert)
Grilled Chicken Wings (marinade created by MTH)