Monthly Archives: November 2010

Two keepers for the Thanksgiving season

By now you know I took a holiday in the kitchen last week. But I did stumble upon two amazing recipes that will forever be stashed in my Thanksgiving file, along with all my various November issues of Bon Appetit, Food&Wine and Gourmet dating back to 1994.

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Mediterranean salad with pomegranate and prosciutto

The first: Mediterranean salad with pomegranate and prosciutto.  The recipe jumped out from Bon Appetit circa 2008 when I realized I had most of the ingredients on hand: arugula, mint (not yet frozen in the garden), a pomegranate (I buy them just because they’re pretty and remind me of my grandmother; she had a tree in her yard when I was little); and prosciutto.  The only questionable ingredient was fennel.  Time to dig through the snow and see if my fennel plant had been fertile enough to yield a bulb.  It wasn’t.

Luckily we stopped by Pike Place Market the next day during an outing to see the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I picked up the remaining ingredients for our day-after-Thanksgiving dinner of  “Scampi fra diavolo” – a clever way of making shrimp both garlicky and spicy. The recipe was just a few pages away from the pomegranate salad recipe in the old Bon Appetit. Together, the two made a welcome departure from the previous day’s turkey feast.

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The chowder is amazing (this photo, not so much)

The second Thanksgiving keeper was another extracted from an old issue of Bon Appetit – 2007: Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta. It actually took me a couple of days to get my act together on this one.  First, I had to strip the turkey carcass and precook the wild rice.  Then I made turkey stock in the pressure cooker (first time making stock in the PC – 30 minutes under pressure, done. Excellent!) And then finally assembled the chowder which was sinfully rich and chunky with carrots, celery, rice, mushrooms, turkey, corn.  Thumbs up all around.  Which is a good thing since I’ll be out tomorrow night and the guys will be enjoying round two!

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A headstart for Thanksgiving Dinner

I just stumbled upon Mark Bittman’s list of 101 recipes to give your Thanksgiving feast a head start the day before.

I have my eye on the Thai winter squash soup. Looks easy enough to whip together this evening.  Then I’m hanging up my apron for a few days. On Thursday you’ll find me heating up a turkey dinner from PCC while indulging in my annual tradition – the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade .  Sinful, I know.  I can’t wait. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Sneaky cooking works like a charm

I’ve seen those cookbooks that advise moms to trick their kids into eating their vegetables. All sorts of subterfuge is suggested to camouflage the undesirables as cutesy shapes or mask them under heavy sauces.  I never went for that plan. If the kids don’t recognize the veggies on their plate when they’re young, why on earth would they ever choose to eat them when they’re older?

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Howls of despair for roasted cauliflower, or maybe it was the advanced algebra test?

Funny how you can change your tune when those sweet little kids get bigger and noisier and you’re asking them to clean their plates on Meatless Monday and Whole Grain Wednesday. Last week started out particularly rough when I joined pan-grilled salmon with a most amazing recipe clipped from the Wall Street Journal: Andrew Carmellini’s Roasted Cauliflower with Yogurt and Mint. “BUT MOM … YOGURT DOESN’T GO WITH CAULIFLOWER!!!” Son #1, stressed from a pending algebra test, found it too much to handle. My explanation that the combo would be  commonly found in Indian cuisine fell on deaf ears.

On Tasty Tuesday I braced for another eruption — the guys don’t like eggplant, but it’s one of my favorite vegetables.  The old sauce trick worked. Red curry chicken with eggplant and basil was just the right recovery from our trauma on Meatless Monday. (My recipe was clipped from an old Pioneer Organics newsletter, but this one is similar.)

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Eggplant's a winner in red curry with chicken

Emboldened by my success with eggplant, I pushed ahead to Whole Grain Wednesday. I hid quinoa in a version of beef picadillo, a dish we’ve often enjoyed  with rice. This time the family didn’t miss a bite, though a widely touted whole grain was a key ingredient in the meal. I’ve found a new hero in Lorna Sass. Her cookbook, Whole Grains Every Day Every Way, demystifies the world of whole grains. And as with her pressure cooker recipes, Lorna’s ideas for cooking with whole grains are tasty and fairly easy to pull off on a weeknight.

Thermal Thursday featured a quick kale and sausage soup in the pressure cooker. Well, isn’t everything quick in the pressure cooker? By Friday I had energy leftover to assemble a “date night dinner” with my husband.  The boys were busy while we indulged in rosemary-rubbed lamb chops and red potatoes thanks to a great recipe from an All-Clad pan-grill cookbook. Fresh steamed brussel sprouts made a colorful side but the real winner? A bottle of  fine red wine tucked away for safe keeping five or so years ago. I wondered if we should save it longer for a special occasion. “I think we should celebrate getting through the week without any major disasters,” my husband noted.  That’s good enough for me!

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Date night dinner on Fun Friday - lamb chops, red potatoes grilled with rosemary

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Making food fast at home

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Risotto in the pressure cooker - my new favorite fast food

Sometimes there’s just no time left to spend in the kitchen. Evening events filled up our calendar last week so dinner had to be simple and/or fast.

For Meatless Monday, we relied on a stirfry (and ignored the boys’ standby complaints about tofu). Tuesday was easy thanks to leftovers from the Spicy Pork and Apricot Stew that my husband made on Sunday (that’s his day to cook so this time, we made a super big batch and froze three-quarters of it for future meals).  Wednesday was a boxed chicken enchilada dinner (not so good) for the guys while I dined on roasted autumn vegetables over pumpkin polenta at my business dinner (cringe). Thursday I was off again while my husband made penne with marinara sauce and ground beef for the boys.

By now you may think I should be featured on this website and you’ll nominate my husband for this one, especially because he complained not one whit.  I managed to redeem myself in the kitchen on Friday. Thanks to the pressure cooker I had just en0ugh energy left to whip up butternut squash and sausage risotto.  This version by Rick Rodgers was easy enough and tasty; the texture not as appealing as the last version with ham and peas by Lorna Sass. The risotto was a comforting way to wrap up a hectic week of eating on the run.

Still I marvel at the fact I’ve cooked dinner only two out of last seven nights. Hmmm, not a bad change of pace from my perspective!

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They ate it, they liked it!

Chickpeas. Wheatberries. Brown rice pasta. Not exactly kid food. But over the last couple of weeks I’ve sneaked these items into our meal plan and eureka, no complaints!

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Chickpea salad with pesto - no complaints

Sometimes I wonder it’s just a matter of planetary alignment that I get fewer grumbles than usual from my sons. Maybe their growing bodies/appetites are finally forcing their tastebuds to be less discriminating.  I like to think that they’ve surrendered to my passion for themed menus this fall.  Meatless Monday, Whole Grain Wednesday, Thermal Thursday.  They’ve realized I’m not willing to give up this effort easily.  And we’re all starting to look forward to Fun Friday when a) we order pizza or b) indulge in a special meal that isn’t easy to achieve on weeknights and c) we often add a movie from our instant queue on Netflix (you can find those movie titles on the Friday night meal plans too).  Themed meals are certainly making my life easier. The rhythm is easy to remember, especially when the themes are helping me achieve overall goals in the kitchen on weeknights:

Eat more fiber (explore the confusing world of whole grains)

Consume less meat (Meatless Monday is easy: We love fish; the boys will tolerate vegetarian meals)

Use time- and energy-saving techniques (use the pressure cooker, rely on a stable of simple recipes)

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Pork medallions with wheatberry salad

And we’re cooking new foods along the way.  Wheat berries – I’ve always loved wheat berry salads from the deli.  Cooking them at home was an adventure.  I ended up buying both soft and hard wheat berries, even though the recipes don’t specify which type works best.  I soaked them all day ( the soaking time on recipes ranged from zero to overnight soaking). And I cooked them in the pressure cooker, which turned out just fine even if they were a bit squeaky to bite.

More to learn, I suppose. As long as they eat the stuff, I’ll keep cooking it.

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