Monday, October 28, 2013

(recipe: apple harvest pancakes & cider syrup)

I wish I could wax poetic about how fall is definitely in the air, however this "not too cool, not too hot" weather does not allow me this pleasure.  It is for lack of a better word, heavy.  The clouds sag with heft and the warm air weighs on any cool weather lover's heart. 
This boy is a true ham!
Yesterday was a family day, a rare day in which my husband and I were not at work, or there wasn't a soccer game, or birthday party to attend.  It was just us, husband, wife, son and no plans.  To celebrate, we began the day with a nice family breakfast.  To honor the invisible season of autumn, I made Apple Harvest Pancakes with Cider Syrup.  Hubs made bacon.  You may not think there is an art to frying up bacon, but for some reason I like his better than mine.
Have you ever seen anyone take on pumpkin picking with such fervor?!?
Soon after breakfast, the sun broke free from the heavy clouds and we found ourselves picking our pumpkins for Halloween night.  And despite the heft and warmth of the air and sun, apple pancakes & a pumpkin patch brought a little "fall" to us that fine family day.

Apple Harvest Pancakes
yield:  1-1/2 dozen
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 eggs
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 3/4 cups thinned plain yogurt (fill a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup with 7 ounces of plain yogurt, add enough milk to equal 1 3/4 cups)
2 small apples, peeled and grated
  1. In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, thinned yogurt, canola oil; stir into dry ingredients just until blended.  Stir in apples.
  2. Pour batter by heaping 1/4 cupfuls onto a greased, heated griddle.  Turn when bubbles form on top; cook until golden.
Cider Syrup
yield:  1-1/4 cups
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/2 lemon
  1. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Stir in cider until smooth.  Cook and stir over medium-high heat until thickened and bubbly, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low; cook and stir 2 minutes longer.  Stir in butter and squeeze in lemon juice.  Serve with pancakes.
*Recipe source:  Taste of Home

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

white bean & kale stew

In a sleepy little university town nestled in the Bannock Range of Idaho, the College of Education could not wait for the weather to turn gray.  For the north wind to chill us to the bone.  For knitted scarves & mittens.  For soup weather.  The department I worked for had the perfect fundraiser during those blustery months, doling out bowls of soup and plates of grilled cheese for a few bucks a pop.  Students, professors and administrators would file down the hall to find comfort in a bowl of our dean's wild rice & mushroom soup (which was delicious) or savor the perfected minestrone of one of literacy professors (which he sheepishly admitted was one of his best recipes.)

Today, in a southern suburb of Austin, the sky was gray and the air was chilly.  Soup weather has come to Texas.  Wrapping myself in a sweater and boiling a pot for tea sent me back to the days of the soup and sandwich sale in the Intermountain West.  Soup on this week's menu is inevitable.

This White Bean & Kale Stew is a healthy, comforting, vegetarian dish reminiscent of that perfected minestrone soup ladled out during those chilly Idaho afternoons.  It is a great "from the pantry" meal as the recipe calls for ingredients typically found in the everyday kitchen. 

White Bean & Kale Stew
serves 4
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk celery, diced
salt & pepper
1/2 can diced tomatoes
3 1/3 cups vegetable stock
4 oz. small red potatoes, scrubbed & rinsed, diced
1 15 oz. can cannellini, navy or white kidney
beans, drained and rinsed
1 hefty handful torn kale
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add shallots, garlic, carrots, and celery and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Increase heat to medium high and add diced tomatoes, with their juice.  Cook, until it begins to caramelize, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add vegetable stock, potatoes, and beans, and bring soup to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Add kale and cook, covered, until tender, about 2 minutes, then season with salt and pepper if needed.  Garnish with Parmesan.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

around the hive: bake sale

Homemade Granola with Cranberries & Apricot; Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

Mini Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread, Homemade Granola & Popcorn Balls
Our little school hosted the October bake sale booth at the local market day.  I filled a canning flat with many goodies.  It is a prime month and our booth has a great location at the market.  I hope we did well in our fund raising.  These guys were packaged to sell! 
Happy Fall!

**Packaging:  Granola was placed in Mason jars and tied with raffia or decorated with old napkins that I cut to fit (Vera Bradley Portabello Road) & baker's twine.  Mini loaves and popcorn balls were placed in cellophane bags, tied with a ribbon; full loaves were wrapped in plastic wrapped then wrapped in parchment paper and tied with baker's twine.  All products were labeled with recycled remnants of cards that were intended to be disposed of.  I simply punched them out with a scalloped edged circle punch and wrote on them with a golden paint pen.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

simplicity in a carrot (recipes: glazed carrots & curried carrot soup)

During my first quarter in culinary school I attended a course called Intro to Culinary Skills.  It was a broad course, taught by a competition chef that covered knife skills, plating, timing and the basics of all cookery.  During our week of root vegetable cookery our chef instructor asked us to ignore the recipe in our notebook-carrots reminiscent of Thanksgiving, glazed in brown sugar and maple syrup.  The recipe looked divine, however I found myself reluctantly slicing carrots on the bias as the chef scribbled his recipe loosely on the blackboard.

Carrots, butter, chicken stock, salt and pepper, parsley.  That was it.  It was so simple, maybe even too simple.  I added a knob of butter into the warmed saute pan and swirled it into a sizzling foam.  Chopped carrots were tossed into the hot fat and glistened as they were coated in butter.  A shower of salt and pepper was added.  A pouring of chicken stock spattered and sputtered as I added the liquid half way up the carrots.  I increase the fire to bring everything to a boil, covered the pan and lowered the heat.
Once the carrots were tender, I removed them from the pan and set them aside.  Carrot infused chicken stock puddled the saute pan.  I amped up the heat and boiled the liquid, constantly swirling it around in the pan.  With a little patience and sizzling hot spots a carrot infused reduction glistened in the pan.  A dot of butter, carrots and a sprinkling of parsley were tossed back into the pan and coated with the glaze. It was simple and it was simply delicious.

Simply Glazed Carrots
serves 4-6
2 bunches of carrots, peeled
1-2 tablespoons butter
salt & pepper
1-2 cups chicken stock
Parsley, chopped (optional)
  1. To cut carrots into even chunks, begin at the tapered end and cut the carrot at the diagonal.  As you slice up toward the wider end, rotate the carrot one quarter turn creating uniform pieces.  Need a visual, check out this tutorial.
  2. Add one tablespoon of butter into a saute pan and heat it until melted and foamy.  Add carrots and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add chicken stock halfway up the carrots and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until carrots are tender but not mushy.
  4. Remove carrots from the pan and return heat to high.  Swirl the pan to move the liquid around until it reduces into a glaze.  Add carrots back to the pan and toss in the glaze.  Add parsley (optional).  Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Curried Carrot Soup (a non-recipe recipe)
Pardon the loose instructions to this soup recipe.  It is a product of leftovers and a quiet lunch on a slow fall day.  Amounts really are dependent on how much carrots are left over from the night before, so it really is an eyeball-it kind of recipe.  Make it your own-I know you can!

Toss left over carrots and a cup of chicken stock onto a small sauce pot.  Heat gently and puree with an immersion blender (alternatively, use a blender but be careful buzzing hot liquids around, they tend to expand and can explode out the top).  Add more stock if soup is too thick.  Add salt, pepper, a pinch of curry powder and a whisper of cayenne pepper.  Add the juice of 1/2 of a small lemon.  Stir and adjust seasonings.  Serve garnished with a dollop of yogurt, pita crisps and chopped cilantro.

Monday, October 7, 2013

tomato, pesto & cheese baked pasta and a bit of snark.

Last week I posted an easy recipe for Kale Pesto.  I had no idea that the following day was "National Kale Day," thanks to one food blogger who apparently celebrates any and every National (fill in the blank here) Day, I was duly notified.
Back in 2009 I introduced you to Homemade Ricotta
Seriously, I see these celebratory posts in me feed all the time.  "Hey guys!  It's National Mutton Day!  I've got a delicious mutton recipe that would make Grandma Mima proud!  Visit my blog and comment, tweet, like on FB, write a blog post about mutton, become a fan of mutton on FB, check out my instagram and pin my blog & mutton recipe for a chance to win Grandma Mima's napkins." Yeah, Yeah, well thanks for mutton, lady.    
In 2011, we made tomato sauce.  It is still a staple in this home.
Only Seinfeld fans will understand the mentioned mutton.  Ugh, some of these food bloggers are just so over the top it is beyond annoying.  A lot of the time, this blogger observes from the wings while watching the struggles of others (bloggers) strive for popularity.  It is quite reminiscent of high school.  Like me! Want me! Fan me! Friend me! Pin me!

I actually have been pondering the thought of a separate FB page for this blog.  I don't post a lot about food on my personal page, especially the amount I'd like too, because I feel my non-foodie friends would get annoyed with food pictures and links and messages about how awesome my dinner was.  We shall see.
Last week I apparently celebrated National Kale Day with Kale Pesto!  Yippee!!
In the meantime, lets talk about this baked pasta.  In the past I have shared recipes for homemade ricotta, tomato sauce and kale pesto and with these recipes in your arsenal you could definitely make this pasta.  What am I saying, if you had store-bought ricotta, jarred marinara & a container of pesto you could still make this pasta.

I was completely satisfied with this pasta because there were layers upon layers of flavor.  There was a fresh and vibrant flavor from the marinara, a garlicky zing from the pesto and a mild, subtle salty flavor from the cheeses.  As you spoon the pasta into the bowl it looks like a celebration of Italy, red from the marinara, green from the pesto and white from the cheese-a perfect and unintended tri-color dinner.

Tri-Color Baked Pasta
Tomato, Pesto & Cheese Baked Pasta
yield:  3-4

1/2 pound pasta (we used whole wheat shells, but use whatever is in your pantry)
2-3 cups tomato sauce, warmed
1/2 cup pesto sauce
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese, plus 2T. for topping.
4 oz. Mozzarella Cheese, grated
1 tablespoon butter
  1. Preheat broiler to high.  Meanwhile, boil pasta in a large pot of salted water.  Cook until al dente, where the pasta still has a little bite and is a little chewy, about 8 minutes.  Drain and set in a 2 quart casserole dish.  
  2. Toss hot pasta together with pesto, ricotta and Parmesan, folding gently until combined.
  3. Pour tomato sauce over the pasta mixture, reserving a small amount to top pasta at the table.
  4. Top with mozzarella cheese and Parmesan and dot with butter.  Place under the broiler on the center rack and cook until the cheese is melted, bubbly and golden.