Saturday, December 31, 2011

A look back at 2011

I've never done an end of the year "best-of" post before, but after seeing so many of them this year, I've decided to do one. Rather than posting the most viewed or commented posts, I'm going to follow the example of my friend Christine and choose my favorite for each month. I'm so grateful to have discovered this outlet for writing, storing recipes, sharing them with others, and becoming a part of the amazing food blogging community. The main reason I started this blog was to begin to document my cooking progress because I knew I needed to take control over the food going into my body if I was ever going to take control over my health. I'm glad to say that I've noticed a lot of changes in myself and that 2011 had more ups than downs.

Now, here's my look back at my favorite recipes from 2011.

January
Cashew chicken korma: While this does happen to be one of my most viewed recipes, I think it is my favorite from January because it was one of my first attempts to make my own Indian food. It was delicious and I really should make it again! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet and spiced glazed mixed nuts


These are probably one of the most addictive snacks I've ever made (or eaten). In one bite you get sweetness from the maple and brown sugar glaze, spice from the cayenne and cinnamon, and the saltiness from the healthy sprinkling of sea salt. One top of that, you have some wintery herbs mixed in there and the different textures and tastes of the rich nuts. I love the little flecks of green herbs stuck all over these nuts. I think the herbs set them apart from most glazed/spiced nuts that I've had. I've made this recipe the last two years to give away as a Christmas gift to some family members. Last year, I made only one batch and my husband and I had to pack it up right away to keep from eating it all before we could give it out. This year, I made a double batch so we could keep this small bowl for ourselves and still have enough for gifts. Everyone who received a container of these nuts seemed pretty excited (and most were sampling them immediately). I love that these nuts are something different from all the baked goods and sweets that are (still) surrounding me, too.

You can change up the nuts in here to include your favorite(s), or you can even do all of one kind if you prefer. I adapted this recipe from Not without Salt and it is a pretty forgiving recipe. You can change up some of the spices, too. While it may be too late for Christmas gifts this year, it's definitely not too late to work these into your New Year's party or as a host gift for any holiday gatherings you have remaining. Just be sure to make enough for yourself, too. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Sugar plums


This is my first experience with sugar plums (but it certainly will not be my last). Actually, I never really knew they were a real recipe until this year. And, now that I've tried them, I can see why the sleeping children had visions of them dancing in the heads as the slept on Christmas Eve. Sugar plums contain various dried fruits and spices along with nuts. There appear to be numerous recipes out there, each one utilizing some different nuts, fruits, and spices. The recipe I'm sharing is a combination of inspirations from both Nourished Kitchen and Alton Brown. Sugar plums invoke in me a sense of days past and make me think that they would have been something my great-grandmother may have enjoyed. They smell of Christmas and taste of it, too. I think these are best made while listening to Bing Crosby or Perry Como - something relatively old-fashioned, soft, and relaxing.

If you are looking for one more Christmas treat, give these a try. They are pretty simple to make and you don't have to turn on your oven either. They will make a perfect snack or gift. Plus, they are full of pretty healthy stuff! This recipe will make approximately 30 sugar plums. I think next time I'll add some figs, too.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Curried sweet potato, lentil, and spinach soup


After all the cookies and other Christmas treats I've been eating making, I thought that we could use a light and healthy dinner full of fiber and nutrients. The heaviness of winter foods, especially at Christmas, can sometimes get to be too much. I was craving some spicy food along with some greens. Aside from the spinach, all of the ingredients were already in my pantry or fridge (I love when that happens). I try to keep well-stocked on basic cooking items like spices, stocks, dried and canned beans, diced tomatoes, and other items that I use all the time. I also do a lot of menu planning so I know what meals I'm going to be making for the week. I don't want to have to stop at the grocery store everyday on my way home or wonder what we are going to eat. I like to know and plan this out at the beginning of every week. I find that this is especially important this time of year. We are already eating a lot of sweets and other things that we don't eat regularly, so I think it's even more important to have some quick and healthy dinners up your sleeve and all the ingredients at home. This way, you won't be as tempted to get take out during this busy time of year. I think menu planning helps a lot.

While it may not be the prettiest soup, it was satisfying, filling, and very flavorful. It was pitch dark when I took this photo, so if it looks unappetizing, I apologize. It's really quite delicious, I promise. This recipe will make enough for about four large bowls of soup. I reserved about a tablespoon of the coconut milk to drizzle on top.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Eggnog-glazed nutmeg sugar cookies

I've never been a huge fan of eggnog...until this year, this is. I've found these small containers of eggnog from a local farm that are absolutely delicious. The eggnog is not very thick, but yet it's super creamy. It's full of nutmeg and cinnamon flavors. The best part? It doesn't have any added ingredients that you find in most commercial eggnog like guar gum, "spices," "flavoring," or high fructose corn syrup. So, this season, we've really been enjoying our eggnog (especially with a bit of rum and ice). When I found a recipe for these cookies from Better Home and Gardens (via Pinterest), I just knew that they'd be a perfect new cookie to try this year. I was right. These cookies are sweet, but the spice of the nutmeg counters the sweetness well. They don't taste overly like eggnog, but have just a hint of it as the spices are reminiscent of the holiday drink.

As usual, I did change the recipe a bit. The original recipe says that it will make two dozen cookies, but I think this is very dependent on the size of your cookie cutter. At this point, I've only baked off half of the dough (I'll bake the other half later in the week) and I already have almost two dozen cookies. My star cookie cutter is about 2-ish inches in diameter, and the original used a 3-inch diameter round cookie cutter - so it really makes a difference. I cut down the icing/glaze a bit as well because I don't like it thick. And, for good measure, I added a little rum to it! If you want to use/view the original recipe, you can find it at the above link.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Date-walnut bars

Dates are one of those food items I buy every year at Christmas. I like to eat them whole just as a snack. This year I wanted to add them into one of my holiday baked goods or cookies. I found a recipe for date bars and knew that it would be the winner. These bars have a filling of stewed dates and walnuts sandwiched in-between two layers of a buttery oat crust. They are delicious, sweet, and full of holiday goodness. If you like dates, I guarantee you will love these bars.

I modified the recipe, mainly to cut down on the amount of sugar that it uses. Dates are already so sweet, I didn't want to them to be over-powering with sweetness. Even though I cut it down in the below recipe, I think you could still cut it even more (maybe only 1/4 cup in the date mixture or 1/2 cup in the crust). Depending on the size of your bars when you cut them, you will get about 20 bars. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sesame-cranberry cookies


These are my first Christmas cookies of the season! I always have trouble choosing my cookies because there are the traditional ones that I want to include every year (like rosemary shortbread Christmas trees) but then I find a bunch of new ones that I want to include, too. I like to bake a variety of cookies and to stagger them throughout the month so that we don't have too many all at once. I made these cookies for a work gathering so we only ate a couple of them ourselves. This was a new recipe that I found and I was unsure how they would turn out because they don't have a lot of the traditional cookie ingredients -- not a lot of flour, no baking soda/powder, no eggs... What I really loved about these cookies is that they were low in sugar and they used maple syrup for their sweetener. So, I would say as far as cookies go, these are a relatively healthier choice than some...

These cookies had a hint of maple taste, a tang of cranberry, and a really nutty taste from all the toasted sesame seeds. The combination was good and they weren't overly sweet, which is nice this time of year when there are so many sweet treats. Also, they are a snap to make - perfect for a last minute party treat or easy holiday dessert! The below recipe will make about 20-22 cookies. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mixed mushroom ragu with pasta


Mushrooms are one of those things people either love or hate. When I was a kid, I had more of a hate relationship with mushrooms, but it has definitely shifted to more of a love relationship as an adult. There are so many types of mushrooms available in the grocery store now that you aren't stuck with just the white button variety. I enjoy trying all the different kinds and my husband has started learning wild mushrooms and foraging for chanterelles are other edibles. I gave him a copy of the book Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystic of Mushrooms for Christmas last year. I just started reading this book recently and I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying it. It combines science, ecology, and cooking all in one book - what could be better?

This recipe is inspired by a similar one from Wegmans' magazine. I was seeing a lot of nice mushrooms in the store and thought that a pasta featuring them was in order. You can use any combination of mushrooms you want for this recipe - whatever is available in your store and whatever looks good and fresh. Crimini, shiitake, white button, chanterelle, oyster, etc. - they will all work. I like to use a mixture to have different flavors and textures. The three I chose were based on what was available the day I went shopping. This recipe will serve about six people.

Lastly, today is my two-year anniversary since my first blog post! When I look back at my older posts, I think that I've grown a lot in my writing. I am trying more and more foods and learning so much by cooking and blogging about it. I'm so glad to have all of you other great bloggers and readers out there to share recipes and stories with. I truly love hearing your comments. For the next year I plan to continue to try new foods and to keep cooking to ensure my husband and I are eating real food. Thanks for all the support! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Guinness gingerbread

If you have Nigella Lawson's cookbook Nigella Kitchen and you have not made her Guinness gingerbread yet, well, after you read this post, you should do so immediately! If you are looking for a holiday treat that is different from the usual cookies, look no further. This gingerbread (and, let's be honest, it is basically a gingerbread cake) is so good - it's moist, sweet, spicy, and just all around good. Plus, it gets better as it sits for a day or two - so try not to eat it all on day one! I served up a piece with some vanilla ice cream while it was still warm, but I thought it was better plain (for breakfast) the next day after the flavors continued to develop.

I did change the recipe ever so slightly so what I've posted below is a little different than in the cookbook. For one, I added molasses, so mine is a bit darker. I combined the molasses with the golden syrup that Nigella has in her recipe because I like my gingerbread to have that molasses flavor in it. The golden syrup is nice because it is made with cane sugar rather than corn syrup that is made with corn sugar. I found it in the European section of my grocery store (if you can't find it though, I would use a combination of molasses and corn syrup). I also added a bit more ginger because I knew her two teaspoons wouldn't be enough for me. There were a few other changes I made including adding some salt and decreasing the brown sugar. It was splendid. The only problem was that I accidentally put it in a baking dish that was too small because I wasn't paying attention. This caused some of the batter to ooze over the sides. So make sure your baking dish is large enough (13 x 9 x 2). Depending on how small or large you cut your gingerbread, you should get between 16 and 24 pieces.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Roasted butternut squash with baby spinach and pomegranate

When pomegranates appear in the grocery store, I am always trying to come up with ways to incorporate them into my cooking. Pomegranate seeds are crunchy and tart and they make a great topping for salads, vegetables, oatmeal, etc. Pomegranates can be messy and a little time consuming to get out all the seeds - and, you don't want to lose the juice and just let it run out all over your cutting board. You want to save it to use in the recipe. Here are some pomegranate tips if you've never tackled one before or if they still give you some trouble. I like to seed it over a bowl and then use a colander to separate the seeds from the juice.

I made this side dish utilizing the bottom half of a giant butternut squash I had saved. This squash came from my father-in-law's garden and it was so big. I fed eight people with the top half at Thanksgiving and still had more than enough! I really like to pair sweet winter squash or sweet potatoes with a bitter green. I generally use dried cranberries and or some toasted nuts to add tang and crunch, but this time I went with the pomegranate seeds. The result is an easy, healthful, and colorful side dish that is full of complimentary flavors. The colors would make this a lovely dish to serve as a side to a holiday meal, too. The recipe is very forgiving and can be adjusted to feed more people by just eyeballing the amounts of vegetables so that they look to be in a good ratio to one another. The recipe below made enough to feed about three people as a hearty side. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Apricot glazed chicken with almonds


Chicken is something that people always seems to get stuck as to how to make it differently or new, especially chicken breasts. I never seem to have that problem - I'm always finding new ideas and new recipes I want to try out for chicken. This recipe is from Gourmet Today (which is really one of the best cookbooks ever - I seem to find a new recipe every time I look through it). This chicken is simple and flavorful - plus, it's easy to make which is perfect for a weekday dinner. The glaze ingredients are likely items that you already have at home. The base of the glaze is apricot jam. I like to buy Crofter's brand jams because they are organic and made with fair trade sugar. The sweet jam is mixed with soy sauce and mustard, which balances the flavor of the glaze. I served the chicken with some steamed green beans and baked garnet yams for a complete meal. The recipe will make about four servings. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Slow cooker chili macaroni

We stocked up on beef, including a good amount of ground beef, at the end of our farmers' market this fall. We get the majority of our beef (and a lot of other things like shiitake mushrooms) from Green Heron Growers. Their beef is grass-fed and all their food is organic. I was never a big fan of red meat growing up, but once I started eating grass-fed, it is a whole other story. Plus, I love that I can get our meat from a local family farm and that I know the cows were able to walk around outdoors and eat the diet they were meant to eat (not corn).

This meal is something a little different for me. It's a slow cooker recipe that I modified from The Slow Cooker Bible. I was looking for an easy dinner for a busy weeknight and the chili mac caught my eye. It sort of reminded me of being a kid (ground beef and elbow noodles!) and I thought it would be a comforting and fun sort of meal that we would enjoy. Anytime you cook something low and slow, the flavors really develop and the slow cooker is no exception. I liked this dish a lot and it makes great lunch leftovers, too. This should serve about five to six people as a main dish, especially with a green salad or something similar on the side.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cranberry sauce quickbread

Do you still have leftovers of cranberry sauce from your Thanksgiving dinner? If so, here's a creative way I found to use up some of it. I found this recipe on The Kitchn and thought it was a great idea. Not only did it use up some cranberry sauce, but also buttermilk that I had left. This bread takes your cranberry sauce and turns it in to something completely new, which is a great way to ensure that your leftovers actually get eaten. It also takes those Thanksgiving leftovers and turns them into something that touches on the flavors of Christmas. This bread is simple and versatile. You can add nuts, dried fruits, citrus zests, or spices of your choice. I did modify the recipe quite a bit to add spices and nuts because I thought it may be a little bland as is. My cranberry sauce had clementine and ginger in it, so I wanted to match those flavors. This recipe will make one loaf of bread and it makes a nice breakfast or snack with a cup of coffee or tea.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ginger-clementine cranberry sauce

Cranberry sauce is something I make every year for Thanksgiving. I've never been a fan of the canned cranberry sauce "log" so I started making sauce with real cranberries years ago. However, I realized that I use the same recipe every year and always make cranberry-orange sauce (which, by the way, I posted here exactly one year ago). I love that recipe, but I decided to change-up my cranberry sauce a little by making it a slightly spicy sauce featuring ginger. Ginger is one of my favorite flavors and I thought that it would be nice to bring it into my Thanksgiving dinner. I've been seeing a lot of cranberry sauce/relish recipes with ginger recently that helped me decide to try the change.

Cranberry sauce is one of the Thanksgiving meal items you can make ahead of time and refrigerate for a couple of days. Those dishes are nice because it's one less thing you need to make the day of your meal. Plus, cranberry sauce is easy and ready in a snap. It's worth making yourself. We have more people coming for our dinner this year, so this recipe will serve about 8-10 people as a Thanksgiving side (and hopefully some leftovers to go on a turkey sandwich). I like my cranberries to remain a little on the tart side, but feel free to add more (or less) sugar according to your taste. 

Ginger-clementine cranberry sauce
2 bags (24-oz. total) fresh cranberries
juice and zest of 2 clementines 
2 tablespoons minced crystallized ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
about 1/2 cup turbinado sugar

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring often, until the sauce comes to a boil and cranberries begin to burst. Continue to cook and stir, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency (add a little water or more clementine juice if it is too thick). Remove from heat, let cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Happy Thanksgiving! 

This recipe is being submitted to this month's Healing Foods event which features vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pumpkin gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce

My husband and I went to a wonderful restaurant a couple of weeks ago for our two year wedding anniversary. This restaurant specializes in a small menu comprised of as many local and seasonal ingredients as possible. I had a bowl of potato gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce with three kinds of roasted squash and pancetta. It was delicious and it was also the first time I ever had gnocchi. I was inspired to make gnocchi at home and I thought that pumpkin gnocchi would be so seasonal and colorful. However, I had no idea how to make them. I searched all over the web and found quite a few recipes. I decided to use this recipe at Closet Kitchen as my guide. The gnocchi were not that difficult to make. I don't have a gnocchi board, so I tried to roll them on a fork to make the lines. It worked OK, but not great. They didn't look perfect by any means, by they tasted delicious and the orange color was lovely.

It just so happened that the recipe I found also had a gorgonzola sauce like I had at the restaurant. I made that and served it on top of the gnocchi along with some pieces of crisp applewood smoked bacon, fried sage leaves, and shallots. It was fall comfort in a bowl. The salty bacon paired nicely with the rich cheese sauce and the gnocchi were slightly sweet and nutty. I think some roasted cauliflower (maybe purple) or chestnuts would be a nice addition as well.  This recipe will make enough to serve about four people as a main dish. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Orange and honey roasted rutabaga


Up until this I had never eaten a rutabaga anyway except for mashed/pureed with potatoes. I am pretty sure that up until last fall, I had never eaten a rutabaga in my life though. So, I decided to try a new way to make this root vegetable into a side dish. Roasting is pretty much the best way to make almost all vegetables, so I figured that it would be worth a shot.Since rutabagas have a bit of a spicy flavor (similar but more subtle than a turnip), I thought that a sweet flavor would go nicely with it. I decided to keep it simple and roast the rutabaga chunks with some honey and orange juice. It was a good choice and the slight tang from the orange juice and sweetness from the honey paired very nicely with the rutabaga - it didn't overpower the vegetable, but rather complimented it.

I used one medium rutabaga, which I thought would make a side for at least three people, but my husband and I ate it all! I think that this would make a lovely and simple Thanksgiving side dish and a tasty way to introduce people to rutagbagas, which don't tend to be a very popular or common vegetable in my experience. You can easily double or triple this recipe and it is very forgiving. So if you haven't already made friends with the rutabaga, go for it! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Coconut and lime poached white fish with baby bok choy


This recipe is one my mom gave me that was ripped out of the current edition of Better Homes and Gardens magazine. She thought that I would like it and was correct! I thought that it sounded quite delicious. I also thought it would be a perfect dinner to make during this little warm spell we've been having. I used flounder in my recipe, but you can use any white fish that you want (skinless and boneless filets) and that looks good. I adapted the recipe a little bit to the one below because I added some ginger and scallions to the broth as well as rice to make this a more filling meal. I'm a sucker for a good Asian-inspired broth and this one had all the sweet, spicy, salty, and sour that you would expect. Bok choy isn't something that I cook with very often and I'm not sure why. I have seen it all around our farmers' market this fall. I like the baby ones because they are very tender (and cute), but you can get a larger head and cut it into strips if that's all you can find.

This recipe will serve two people as a main course with the rice. I used jasmine rice, but basmati or any long grain rice would work nicely.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Apple-stuffed acorn squash

I'm continuing my quest to post more vegetable side dishes (and this one just happens to be acorn squash again). The recipe actually stems from a squash dish my husband made for me a few times when we were dating. I remember we had it one Christmas Eve dinner with some family and friends and it was a big hit. It was a small dinner and we made an half of a squash for each person. It's a nice side dish because everyone gets their own individual half - it's cute and they are very good. I think these would also make a nice Thanksgiving side dish, but only if you had a small gathering - it would be difficult to do a whole bunch of these at one time (unless you had a second oven, which is unlikely). I made this dish recently for my husband and I along with some pecan-crusted chicken. I added some spices like cayenne and cinnamon so that they weren't overly sweet. I think this was the first time I made them myself, but we liked my version, too. This recipe is for one acorn squash, which will serve two people. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Maple glazed pumpkin cake


I saw this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs recently and knew that it would be a perfect dessert for my Halloween/Octoberfest dinner I made over the weekend for a few family members. I'm not usually a big cake making person, but this one looked so good and so easy, plus the ingredients were healthier than most cakes - so I figured I'd give it a try. The cake turned out nicely. It was a pretty dense cake, probably from all the eggs. I like the combination of pumpkin and maple and this cake uses olive oil as its fat, which is a nice change. 


If you are looking for a fall dessert, give this one a try. I think it would be a nice addition to Thanksgiving as well. It will pair nicely with a cup of hot apple cider or tea. Below is my modified version of the original recipe posted on Healthy Green Kitchen. The original recipe calls for all organic products. I rarely specifically call for organic in the recipes on my blog, but it is what I use as much as I can. I encourage you to use organic products as much as possible as well.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Apple-pecan spice bread

I'm getting down to the last of our apples from apple picking (except the ones we've stashed in the refrigerator crisper for snacks). I love to make quick breads and muffins, even though they aren't necessarily the healthiest of foods, but I try to make them with good ingredients so I don't feel as bad... I like this bread because it has chunks of apples and lots of my favorite cool-weather spices. This part is perfect for right now because I saw the first snow of the season this afternoon. It was a short, wet snow that melted right away, but it's still very cold and damp outside. There's something magical about the first snow of the season, even here in western NY where we have a long winter. I'm not ready for fall to be over yet, but this is perfect weather for a slice of this bread and a hot cup of tea. Plus the baking will warm your home with the heat of the oven and the aroma of spices. This recipe will make one loaf of bread. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brown sugar and cinnamon baked acorn squash

So at the farmer's market this weekend, we hoarded a good stash of winter squash just like last year. One farmer offers a basket of squash for $10.00 when the market is getting down to its final weeks. I think we got about 13 winter squash including acorn, butternut, golden buttercup, carnival, delicata, sweet dumpling, and one blue hubbard - less than $1.00 a piece! I love deals like that and squash is one of my favorite foods - I look forward to it all year. So, expect to see a lot of squash recipes from me again this year! This recipe is a pretty simple side dish, but also really delicious. You could use any winter squash in place of acorn, but I like that acorn isn't too sweet in itself so the caramelized brown sugar doesn't make it too sweet.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ginger-vanilla pear sauce

While I do love making applesauce each year after apple picking, this year I thought I would also try some pear sauce. I picked up some Bartlett pears at the farmer's market and thought about how I wanted to spice up the pears to differentiate this sauce from the applesauce I make. I really like ginger and pear together so I decided to try fresh ginger root in the sauce. Then I decided that some vanilla bean would also work nicely in this sauce. The mellow and sweet pears combined with some sugar, spicy ginger, and savory vanilla creates a complex sauce that is sure to surprise people expecting the usual cinnamon and nutmeg flavors. I made a smaller batch of this to give it a try, but will make a bigger one next time. The recipe will make about 3 cups of sauce, depending on the size of your pears. You can easily make a larger batch and then put it in freezer containers (I have a container frozen to thaw out for Thanksgiving dinner) to have pear sauce all season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Apple crumb tart

Here is another recipe that helped me make a little bit more of a dent in my bushel of apples we picked. Apple picking is such a great way to celebrate the fall, especially with kids. It's such a simple pleasure and I love to be able to take my little cousin along with our niece and nephew. They have such a fun time and I like that they get to learn a little bit about where apples and apple cider actually come from. Also, all the apples we get are provide me with lots of inspiration for new apple dishes. I loved this tart because it is like an apple pie and an apple crumble merged together. The filling was sweet, but also a bit tart from the combination of apples. Cinnamon and nutmeg provided the warm spices you expect in an apple dessert. This tart is a nice fall dessert, perfect after a fun day outside picking apples or pumpkins, or after a nice weekend meal. Pair it with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream for an even more delicious treat (especially while the tart is still warm).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sauteed red Swiss chard


We found the most vibrantly colored red Swiss chard at the farmer's market that I had ever seen. It was so beautiful, we were compelled to buy it and cook it up to eat that evening with our dinner. Many recipes for chard I read call for removing and discarding the stems. The stems are the most colorful part on chard, so I wanted to incorporate them into the recipe. 


I cut off the very ends of the stems where they were split and really fat. Then I sliced up the more tender part of the stems into about a 1/2-inch dice and put them in a pile. I cooked these first and then later added the leaves and it turned out great. The stems were tender and delicious. The color and freshness of this Swiss chard really made us feel like we were getting our vitamins for the day. If you find other colors, feel free to use those as well. Sometimes Swiss chard has white or yellow stems. Chard is bitter, like many greens, so it's great paired with something sweet and/or creamy. I served it with an apple cider and mustard braised beef roast and celery root and apple puree. The below recipe is for a side dish that will serve about four people.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chipotle sweet potato soup

Soup is the ultimate cold-weather food. When the season turns cool, I immediately start turning to soup recipes. I have quite a lot of favorites, but am always trying out new ones, too. Soup from a can is something I've vowed to never eat again. For one, soup is simple to make at home and the types you can make are pretty much endless. Also, even if you buy the "healthy" soups, they usually still have a lot of sodium and are mostly broth. I'm a big believer in ingredient quality and control - I want to know what is in my soup, including how much salt (or MSG). Plus it's a great way to use a variety of vegetables.

I was in the mood for something spicy when I made this soup and it did not disappoint. The sweet potatoes and a bit of sugar helped to counterbalance the chipotle. When the sweet potatoes were pureed, they were creamy and smooth, giving the soup a very luxurious feel. If you don't like a lot of heat and spice, you may want to cut back on the amount of adobo sauce. This recipe will make about four servings. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Wheat berry waldorf salad

This is one of what will probably be many apple recipes I'll be posting in the near future. We brought home a bushel this past weekend from our apple picking adventure, an upstate New York tradition. I already made my batch of applesauce and froze some for Thanksgiving dinner. So now I'll be looking for other creative ways to use some more. This salad only used one apple...but, that's OK. This recipe is similar in ingredients to turkey waldorf salad pitas I've posted before; however, the base of this salad is wheat berries. The wheat berries are nutty and have a great texture that I enjoy. 

I'll very much welcome anyone who wants to share their favorite fall recipes for apples! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Roasted chicken thighs with garlic cloves

This is my version of Nigella Lawson's chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. My husband and I love garlic and we eat it all the time. However, even for us garlic lovers, 40 cloves can be quite a lot for two people to eat at a meal (her recipe is for more than two). So, I cut down the amounts of chicken and garlic here. I also use boneless and skinless chicken thighs rather than bone-in as the recipe calls for - this is really only because these are the only free-range, organic chicken thighs I can readily find.

I was lucky enough to have two kinds of garlic - I don't really know the differences, but one was from my father-in-law's garden and had a purple/pink colored skin while the other was the regular white garlic. Both were really delicious when they were soft and sweet from the roasting. Oven-roasting garlic completely changes its flavor to become sweet and creamy. We like to "pop" the garlic out of the skin and spread it on some crusty bread. I think that's the best way to use roasted garlic. This recipe will make a meal for two. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Curried butternut squash and yellow pea soup

Soup and squash season is upon us again! This is a soup to make for anyone who still thinks that vegetarian food is boring or bland. It is so full of flavor, texture, and warmth that it will not disappoint. Slightly spiced with ginger, curry powder, and a touch of cayenne pepper, this soup packs a delicious flavor punch. The combination of vegetables, including butternut squash and carrots, lend a nice body and sweetness to this soup that compliment the spices. Then the addition of coconut milk gives a nice creaminess to the soup and really makes it feel and taste like curry. I put yellow peas in the soup, but I think that red lentils would also work well. 

The recipe made a large pot of soup that would be enough for about eight bowls. It's great to make and put in the refrigerator for easy weekday lunches or a quick dinner. Serve it as a starter or a main dish with a salad. This soup is my entry to this month's Healing Foods event, which features coconut. This soup is full of healthy ingredients, including the coconut oil and milk.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Baked apple cinnamon oatmeal

Baked oatmeal is a warm and satisfying breakfast, especially as the days get cooler. The days are definitely cooler right now. It's only been in the 40s and rainy, so this nourishing breakfast of fall flavors was a perfect breakfast with a hot cup of coffee. I chose to use apple, cinnamon, and walnuts in my oatmeal because we has those items around already and they are very seasonal. You can use other spices, fruits (fresh or dried), and nuts to make your favorite oatmeal flavor combination such as raisins, pecans, pumpkin puree, and more.

This recipe will feed about three or four people. It's a pretty forgiving recipe, so you can certainly toy around with it to make more or easily double the recipe. It is great for leftover breakfast, too. Just warm it up the next day and you are all set. I like to top mine with a little drizzle of maple syrup, which I used as the sweetener in this recipe. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Green tomato chutney

This chutney was my answer to the green tomatoes that have been hanging on my plant, but not turning red. Since it's getting cooler, I figured I should try to do something with them before we lost them. I left a couple on the plant, just in case, because the past couple of days have been a little warmer than usual... maybe we will get another red tomato or two to enjoy before the season is officially over. This chutney has a lot of spices in it as well as vinegar, salt, and brown sugar. It would be really good over some pork or chicken along with some rice. It would even be good as a dip for some corn chips. As with any chutney, the opportunities are endless.

This recipe yielded about 3 cups of chutney. I put half in a jar in the refrigerator and the other half in a freezer container and froze it. I wanted to preserve and store some of the tomatoes, but I didn't have a ton - only one plant. If you have a lot of green tomatoes, you can easily adjust the recipe to make a large batch to freeze more. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Buckwheat pancakes

As the weather begins to cool and the leaves are starting to have hints of orange and yellow, I fear I am getting back into "pancake mode" on Sunday mornings. You would think that I would have run out of pancake ideas by now, but that doesn't seem to be the case. It's OK though, I mean, that's what Sunday mornings are for - leisurely coffee and a big breakfast.

There are a couple of things I just don't understand when it comes to pancakes. For one, I don't understand why more people don't make pancakes from scratch (i.e., why do so many people make them from a box or a pourable plastic container)? Pancakes are so easy to make and so versatile - it's fun to try out different kinds. They are also a great way to get kids to help you and get interested in their food and cooking. Also, I think it should probably be against the law in the state of NY (and probably VT) to use anything but real maple syrup. Why do we feel compelled to buy fake flavored high fructose corn syrup when we are surrounded by maple producers?  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Beef and wild mushroom stew

Autumn is in the air and I love it! As soon as the temperature begins to drop down, I'm ready for stews, soups, and all other comfort foods. I'm already grabbing up butternut squash, beets, cabbage, and more. I was in the mood to kick-off my cool weather cooking with a hearty and earthy stew. Full of beef and mushrooms on top of some creamy mashed potatoes - it was a perfect way to begin the season! These little baby carrots are not something I would normally use, but I got the for free and figured this would be a good way to use them up. Any carrots would work well for this (I just bought some orange, purple, and white ones at the farmer's market that I'm looking forward to eating). The mushrooms were from the farmer's market - a jar of dried wild chanterelles supplemented by some my husband had foraged.

This stew is something that you make on the weekend so you can let it slow cook for a few hours until the beef almost melts in your mouth. This recipe will serve about four people. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Spanish rice

Did anyone else out there love a certain boxed rice product as a kid that had a "Spanish rice" flavor full of tomatoes and black olives? Well, I did. My mom didn't make that boxed stuff very often; for me it was always thought of as a treat. I thought about this rice recently when I was making some summer vegetable enchiladas and decided to try to make it for myself. I worked from memory trying to remember the flavors that were in the rice I ate as a kid - black olives, onions, tomatoes... I think the rice turned out pretty good and is likely much healthier than the boxed brand I remember. I used water because I wanted to keep this meal vegetarian. You can use chicken stock or vegetable stock in place (or half water/half stock). This will add more flavor to the rice, but I thought it was good the way it was. The fresh tomatoes help to make it sweet (and used up some of the romas that our plant has been producing). This rice is a perfect side dish for tacos, enchiladas, chicken with salsa, or even on a burrito. It will serve four as a side. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Zucchini bread


You know it's the end of summer when you begin making zucchini bread to try to use up more of your zucchini! I have always loved zucchini bread; it's one of those classic treats. I'm sure there are many of you out there that have your favorite zucchini bread recipes. I enjoy how the bread uses a summer vegetable with some classic fall spices. It is a nice transition from summer to fall. This quick bread goes well with your morning coffee or tea, or as a snack anytime of day - I like it with a glass of apple cider.

I used the batter to make one giant loaf of bread in a standard loaf pan (I couldn't find my other loaf pan!), but you can cut the batter in half to make two smaller loaves (just cut the cooking time down). Most recipes use 2+ cups of sugar, but I like to cut the amount down. I find that it is sweet enough.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thai basil chicken

Thai basil chicken (sometimes called Pad Kapow or Pad Krapow) is one of my go-to dishes to order when I am at a Thai restaurant. I love the sauce with its sweet and spicy notes and Thai basil is one of my favorite herbs. Since we have Thai basil in our herb garden this year, I set out to recreate my restaurant favorite at home. I've made this twice now and both times I've found it to be very successful and similar in flavor to what I've eaten out. I read a lot of different sauce recipes and messed around with it until I found the flavor combination I was looking for. This dish is packed full of flavor and is quick and easy to make. I hope that you have the opportunity to get Thai basil where you are so that you can try it. I used chicken thighs and peppers in my dish because that's what I always see in the restaurant. Some recipes use ground chicken or pork, and I'm not sure what the "authentic" recipe uses.

My husband and I ate all of this the first night - no lunch leftovers. I think it should have fed at least three people though, but it was just so good (or maybe we were just really hungry that night). Serve this dish with some Jasmine or regular rice.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Healing Foods event round-up: Zucchini and summer squash

Thank you to everyone who submitted their recipes to August's Healing Foods event which featured zucchini and summer squash. I chose zucchini for my August guest host spot. Zucchini is very abundant right now as we are right in the height of summer and zucchini production in my area. Did you know that zucchini has many health benefits? Zucchini, and all summer squash, are great sources of magnesium, vitamin C, zinc, and other antioxidants. Summer squash are known for their anti-inflammatory properties, blood sugar regulation, and other healthful properties.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Pineapple sage pound cake

I don't really know where this recipe originated, but it is all over the web as one of the most popular recipes to make with the herb pineapple sage (along with this smoothie). I had made this cake a few years ago when I had my first pineapple sage plant and I remembered liking it. So, when I wanted to make a cake for my husband's birthday I decided to give this one a try again because we have a pineapple sage plant again this year. Food is one of the greatest ways to show someone that you care about them. I really wanted to make my husband a cake that was special and a bit out of the ordinary to celebrate his day.

I think this cake is pretty interesting and it is one of those things that gets better after a couple of days as the herbs have more time to permeate the cake. It doesn't have an overwhelming pineapple flavor, but it has a subtle pineapple and light herb flavor. If you make this cake, try to get the smallest and freshest leaves off your plant because they have the most pineapple flavor. The original recipe says you can add some of the red flowers to the cake, but I've never had my plant flower. If you are lucky enough to have some of the flowers, add a couple chopped tablespoons to the batter when you add the leaves for a more colorful cake. Below is my slightly modified version of the recipe.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zucchini pancakes

OK, I admit it, these may not be the healthiest recipe to enter into this month's Healing Foods event. But, I wanted to make a pancake recipe that was on the healthier side and included a great way to use up some of those zucchinis you have building up in your refrigerator and on your counter. So I tried to make a healthy pancake as a breakfast alternative. As you may have guessed, this month the Healing Foods event features zucchini and summer squash (and, is hosted by me). There's still time to get in your entries! Zucchini and all summer squash are full of health benefits as you can read in the announcement. This is a great way to try to get any picky eaters out there (and we all know some of those) to eat up some vegetables.

Back to the pancakes... It's been a while since I made a new pancake recipe, but anyone familiar with this blog knows that I love them and like to try all different kinds. These zucchini pancakes were delicious and pretty. The flecks of green brightened up the pancakes and they were reminiscent of the flavors of zucchini bread. I loaded these pancakes with zucchini and walnuts so they had a lot of texture. This recipe will serve about three people and will make approximately 10 pancakes.