Friday, November 25, 2011

thanksgiving 2011

My favorite holiday has come and gone, and I have to say, it was a great one.

This past month has been fantastic in terms of cooking, and I'm sorry to report that I haven't missed the blog. I'm still blog stalking and trying new recipes, still creating new dishes and using up the last of the CSA (this week was its last- sob!). I just don't think I'll keep chronicling it all on the blog. So for my farewell (maybe forever, maybe just for now) post, I thought I'd show you Thanksgiving.
Per tradition, EDW and I hosted Thanksgiving. I do everything but pie-- thanks, Arnaudins, for bringing the wine, pumpkin pie and black walnut cake! Also, I don't make gravy. I'm terrible at it. I hate it. So my pals at Earthfare whipped some up and we heated it for the meal. I was told it was delicious. (I was also told the turkey was delicious, but I tried a bite and reaffirmed my decision to not eat meat.)
This was the first year I worked all day Wednesday, and it was also the first year I didn't make a plan and schedule. I (turkey)winged it, and it was perfect. Here's what I made, from scratch. Fun fact: every vegetable you see is local except the brussels sprouts.
Thanksgiving 2011

slow roasted turkey with gravy
autumn harvest dressing with butternut squash, mushrooms and collards
brussels sprouts with figs and blue cheese
roasted green bean salad with toasted pecan vinaigrette
roasted mashed sweet potatoes with parmesan
turnip apple mash with thyme
cranberry sauce
cranberry fig compote
whole wheat oatmeal rolls

pumpkin pie
black walnut cake
whoopped cream
I'm thankful for blogs and leftovers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

cheeze sauce

After reading about Angela's cheeze sauce, I not only starred it in my reader but I took the time to email myself the link. The message to me from me with lots of cheezey love has been in my inbox for a few weeks now, and I finally got around to making the basic cheeze sauce over the weekend.

I followed the instructions pretty closely, except I microwaved my almond milk for a minute before stirring in the cornstarch, because I find things dissolve quicker in almond milk if it's not straight out of the fridge cold.

I did a basic there's-not-much-in-my-kitchen-right-now pasta with just whole wheat penne, spinach, and the sauce. And y'all. It was unbelievable.
I won't say it's incredibly cheesey, but it is incredibly creamy and flavorful. It is definitely better than mac and cheese sauce from a box, and I know I'll make it again and again. It helps that I always have the necessary ingredients on hand. It also helps that EDW loved the sauce just as much as I did.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

how to make soup

It took me a long time to learn to improvise in the kitchen, but I do feel fairly confident in my abilities now, which is why the blog has taken a slightly new direction. Once upon a time, I only made soup if I had the exact ingredients prescribed by the recipe, but now I throw them together any time I have a whole mess of vegetables to use up.

Here's my method:

Take stock of the kitchen. What vegetables are on hand? What spices will be nice with them? Are there beans in the freezer so dinner has some protein content?

Start souping.

Saute onion, garlic, and maybe a hard vegetable like carrots.

Add spices, followed by liquid and vegetables.

Bring to a boil. Add beans. Reduce heat and simmer.

Stir in greens and add more liquid as needed.

Adjust spices, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve, knowing the soup will be even better the next day and the day after.

I followed the above method twice in the past few weeks, writing down what I threw in the pot as I went. Most of the vegetables came from our CSA and dictated what I'd be putting in. Both soups yielded 4-6 servings, and both were perfect to our taste. I added the ingredients in the order they're listed.

Vegetable Soup #1:
2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots
1 bay leaf
1 T dried parsley
1 t each of the following dried herbs: marjoram, thyme, oregano, basil
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups green beans
1 qt vegetable broth
2 cups chickpeas
1 bunch kale, thinly slice
(4 cups additional water needed)

Vegetable Soup #2
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1.5 T minced garlic
1 hot pepper, seeded and minced
1 T chili powder
2 t cumin
1 t paprika
1 t mexican oregano
3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
4 cups water
2 cups black beans
4 ears corn, kernels removed
1 bunch kale, thinly sliced
Neither of these is a firm recipe, but it's the kind of cooking I've been mostly doing. EDW is happy. I'm happy. The vegetables are happy.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

ch-ch-changes

If you've been following for a while, I'm sure you've noticed the recent drop in posts. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I should be a blogger anymore.

I started my cooking resolutions in 2009 to keep myself accountable in learning to cook. At first, I was trying one new recipe a week. The next year, I vowed to blog about it. This year, I decided to make up more recipes. I've done them all, and I really do feel like I know how to cook now. I'm good at following recipes, but more exciting to me is that I'm good at throwing together a delicious meal on the fly. I have this blog (and my beloved CSA membership) to thank for it.

The thing is though, the writing of the blog posts has become a chore. I feel obligated to take photes of what I cook, and I feel pressure to write about it. I still think it's great fun-- sometimes. So I'm scaling back. I'm not deleting the blog, and I'm not going away forever. But the weekly CSA posts will probably stop, because I'm bored with them, and honestly, does anyone really want to see another version of my latest beans and greens combinations or hear me ruminate on the beauty of sweet potatoes and winter squash?

In case you do, here's two photes from this week. One is sweet potatoes, black beans, and chard. The other is fresh crowder peas (like black eyed peas) and roasted acorn squash with chard over rice. Both delicious. Both created by me. Neither with formal recipe to be shared.
I'm not gone forever. I'm just going back to my true passion in blogging: silently stalking the ones I love.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 26, we received:

Sweet Potatoes (3 LB)
Cabbage (2)
Bell Peppers (4)
Collard Greens (1 LB)
Green Beans (1.5 LB)
Scuppernog and Muscadine Grapes (1 LB 12 oz)
It might have been my favorite box ever. First of all, I love scuppernogs. LOVE them. And muscadines? (pronounced musk-EE-dines if you're cool like me). So good. EDW hadn't had either grape before, and he was quite impressed. Lucky for us, he preferred the muscadines, while I am obsessed with scuppernogs, so sharing was easy. We each took lots to work for lunch, but we got more of the grapes we liked best. Edwin's comment on his first taste of a muscadine? "It tastes like a jolly rancher!"

We didn't do anything special with the peppers, unless you count slicing them up to take at lunch special.

I used some of the sweet potatoes (some were white and some were orange) and collards to make an Arnaudin favorite, curried lentils and sweet potatoes, on Tuesday. It was the best meal of the week, but we always think curry is the best.
One head of cabbage went into Wednesday's dinner, which was just a saute of onion, cabbage, chickpeas and raisins with smoked paprika and cumin. It's an easy meal, and we had ours, as we often do, over quinoa.
I used the green beans to make a pasta on Friday. I parboiled them first, and then I sauteed the beans with earth balance, garlic, and parsley. I also added in a bunch of spinach and the juice of a lemon. We topped ours with nutritional yeast and were quite happy.
On Sunday, I used the remaining cabbage and sweet potatoes to make caramelized onion and cabbage chowder with sweet potatoes and chickpeas.I'm already dreading the end of CSA season, which will be the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. What will I have to look forward to on Tuesdays come December?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

about the soup

About that caramelized onion and cabbage chower: It became, as it settled, one of the best soups of my life. It is no longer merely adequate-- EDW and I LOVE it. Make it. Add the sweet potatoes. Add the chickpeas. Don't eat it until the next day, and you'll be sublimely happy. And on day 3? Get ready. It's fantastic.

Monday, October 3, 2011

caramelized onion and cabbage chowder with sweet potatoes and chickpeas

I made a cabbage chowder on Sunday night. If you think you don't like cabbage, I think you don't know what you're missing.

I used the recipe for caramelized onion and savoy cabbage chowder from Vegetarian Times as my base, taking inspiration from this blog post along the way. I wanted to keep the apple cider from veg times, add the sweet potatoes from Marcus Samuelsson's website, and put my own protein filled spin on it with chickpeas.

I couldn't decide whether to use rosemary or thyme as my herb of choice, so I ended up using a bit of both ( I used dried). I also used a combination of vegetable broth and water for my liquid, and I sauteed everything with a combination of Earth Balance and olive oil, which made my version vegan.

So yeah. Lots of things happening here. Also, my sweet potatoes were white, which is exciting. As you may recall, I'm not a fan of regular white potatoes, but white sweet potatoes? Bring. Them. On. We got a pile of sweet potatoes in our CSA this week, and some were brown skinned with white innards, some were brown with red, and some were red with white-- very exciting times here in the Arnaudin house of sweet potato love. The ones Sunday night happened to all have white flesh. I stirred in some chickpeas once I got to the simmer, partially covered bit of the recipe.
The chowder was chunky and full of vegetables, but as I suspected, EDW wasn't crazy about the beans' presence. He was also thrown by the lack of orange in the chowder after I told him there were sweet potatoes. The white sweet potatoes were certainly still sweet, but I would say they didn't have as pronounced a yammy flavor as their orange counterparts.
We enjoyed our chowder, but I'm not sure I'd make it again unless I already had the ingredients on hand. It just didn't seem all that special-- it was much more in the adequately flavorful and filling category-- and won't be added to our favorites list.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 19, we received:

Corn (8 ears)
Mexican squash (4)
Chinese eggplant (4)
Lemongrass (4 stalks)
Basil (3 oz)
Roma tomatoes (10)
Raspberries (12 oz)
I was originally put off by the box since I had it in my head that I was finished with summer produce, but I ended up turning the vegetables into some really lovely meals. We love when we get raspberries, so that was thrilling. We had those with breakfast, lunch and dinner until they were gone. My favorite use was with my lunchtime yogurt, but they also made pretty spectacular quick treats every time I passed the fridge.

I used the corn to make a beans and greens skillet with pinto beans, spinach, chipotle pepper flakes, taco seasoning and quinoa. Topped with salsa, this was an incredibly quick and satisfying meal.
Two of the eggplant became charred eggplant dip, while the other two went into ratatouille with the squash, tomatoes and basil.
I used the lemongrass in Sunday night's curried coconut soup, and the basil made a lovely garnish for Monday night's pasta.
It was a nice week, but I still want kale and winter squash to start making permanent appearances in our box.

Monday, September 26, 2011

curried coconut soup with lemongrass

We received stalks of lemongrass this week in our CSA, and I was eager to make some sort of Thai inspired dish. I ended up with curried coconut soup with lemongrass* Sunday night, and it was lovely.

Mr. Bittman's recipe seemed a little light as it was, so I decided to add edamame and bok choy to his basic recipe for heft. I started by sauteing an onion in grapeseed oil, and once it was very tender I added in minced garlic, ginger, a chili, and curry powder. Next came sliced shitake mushroom caps (the recipe called for 1 cup, but I used closer to 2). I added vegetable broth and let the soup simmer for about 10 minutes, and then I poured in a can of coconut milk and the edamame and bok choy. Once the beans and cabbage had cooked a bit, I stirred in soy sauce and lime juice.
EDW and I garnished our soup with sliced green onions and sriracha, which gave it a beautiful kick of flavor. While we really enjoyed this soup, Edwin found it to be a bit on the brothy side for his liking. Neither of us can imagine how meager it would seem without the beans, bok choy and additional mushrooms, and we're glad I thought to pump up the volume. We're still excited to have it as leftovers for lunch today though, as it really is quite tasty.
Bittman, Mark. How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. "Curried Coconut Soup with Lemongrass." p. 137-8.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

summer garden ratatouille

Remember when I talked about how my cooking often looks like a hot mess? Maybe it's just things that involve eggplant, but Friday's dinner was amazing and less than photogenic. I made summer garden ratatouille,* since I finally had everything from one CSA box I needed to make the classic French peasant dish.

Is it really a classic French peasant dish? I get that information directly from the movie Ratatouille, which I loved, and have to remind myself not to call rap-a-too-tee because a first grader adamantly corrected me once. (I pronounced it correctly; he very clearly enunciated the way it was supposed to be said).

However you say it, ratatouille is incredible.

I started by sauteeing 2 onions, a lot of garlic, and a bay leaf in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Next I added 2 small Chinese eggplants (instead of the one medium the recipe asks for), fresh basil, dried rosemary and marjoram, and a bit of salt. Here's where things started to look questionable.I decided to deglaze my pan with 1/4 cup sherry (not in the recipe at all) before proceeding with the rest, since the eggplant and onion mixture was sticking to the bottom after cooking for about 15 minutes. I added in 4 small Mexican squash (which looked like small zucchini) and 10 chopped roma tomatoes (the recipe said 2 cups-- I didn't bother with measuring). The recipe called for 2 bell peppers, but I didn't have them so I left them out. I let the whole thing simmer and break down, and then I served the ratatouille over pasta.
This slightly unfortunate looking vegetable dish is, without a doubt, one of the most delicious things I've ever made. EDW was blown away, and I couldn't quite get over it either. The whole thing just tasted so fresh and perfect, and we were sad to eat the last of the leftovers today. I do think the sherry gave it a little pop of flavor, so I would be sure to use the deglazing step if you decide to make this for yourself. All in all, it was a perfect meal for the final days of summer. *Lind, Mary Beth and Cathleen Hockman-Wert. Simply in Season. "Summer Garden Ratatouille." p. 125.

Friday, September 23, 2011

charred eggplant dip

I make a lot of food, and some of it often looks like a hot mess. I love a big bowl of ingredients, all mushed together, and my cooking reflects that. Most of the time, I take photos of what I cook and post them here, hoping they are pretty enough to impress you. Sometimes, though, I can't even photograph what I make.

I made charred eggplant dip the other night, and while it's definitely delicious, the color of cooked eggplant does nothing for the texture it takes on when it's pureed. Even the folks at Whole Living couldn't make it look that enticing-- but theirs looks infinitely better than mine, which is in a plastic tupperware and was ready for a photo shoot Wednesday night. That being said: make this dip!

I broiled two small eggplants from our CSA box for about 25 minutes, and then I used my immersion blender to puree the innards with lemon juice, garlic, and a bit of cayenne (I wasn't reading closely when the recipe said to use red pepper flakes). I also added about 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika-- it seemed like the right thing to do.

EDW and I took the eggplant dip with our lunches, and dipped our crudites in it for a little veggie variation. It was fantastic. I also dumped some on my spinach and chickpea salad, and you can imagine how well that went off. Word of warning: the garlic is strong, so pack altoids (or keep them in your desk, next to your dark chocolate, like me).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 12, we received:

Butternut Squash (4)
Kale (1 bunch)
Sweet Banana Peppers (7)
Greasy Beans (10 oz)
Ambrosia Apples (7)
Blackberries (1 qt)
If not for the sheer excitement of the first butternuts of the year, I'd say I was slightly underwhelmed by this week's box. Ambrosia apples are far from my favorite variety, and they were sort of a chore to eat through. It was nice to have blackberries, but they weren't as amazing as ones we'd received back in the height of summer. I'm not complaining, though-- we still had lots of good eats throughout the week.

I used the kale and 2 of the butternuts to make a butternut and bean skillet, which we topped with some of the banana peppers.
Greasy beans, as it turns out, are just another type of green beans, and I stir-fried them with tofu in a variation of my spicy stir-fry sauce. We had the stir-fry over udon noodles which made EDW, my noodle loving man, incredibly happy.
I used the remaining butternuts for chili Sunday night. I followed my favorite chili recipe from last year, and used the squash instead of sweet potatoes and 2 cups of pinto beans along with 2 cups of black beans. It was divine.
I know winter squash lasts forever, but I was too excited to save any for later. We ate the rest of the banana peppers with lunches, and the apples and blackberries made nice fruit snacks during the week.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

butternut and bean skillet

The butternuts have arrived! We received 4 in our box this week, and I just had to cook some on Tuesday. Since I had little time and a lot of squash desire, I decided to shred two to speed up the cooking process.
Butternut and Bean Skillet
serves 6

2 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and shredded (I used my food processor)
3 cups cooked beans (I used 2 cups black beans and 1 cup pinto beans)
1 T cumin
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t cayenne pepper
1 bunch kale, stemmed and torn into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat until it is starting to soften. Add the shredded squash, turn up the heat to medium high, and cook until the squash is tender, 10-12 minutes.
Add spices and beans. Stir in kale and about 1/3 cup of water; cover and cook until kale is tender and wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over brown rice. Garnish with peppers and salsa.
I was concerned that EDW would think the kale didn't belong in this dish, but we both loved the combination. We actually would have liked more greens, but I could only use what I'd been given. The salsa really sent the dish over the top, and while it's definitely not winning any beauty contests, this recipe is a star. It has reheated beautifully for lunch, and we are mildly obsessed with its goodness. Edwin and I both give it a solid A.
Thank you, fall, for bringing me my butternut squash.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of September 5, we received:

Broccoli (1.5 LB)
Collard Greens (1 large bunch)
Okra (1.5 LB)
Tomatoes (6)
Yellow Squash (6 medium)
Asian Pears (4)
If there's one thing that rivals my love of the fall apple selection, it's Asian pears. I'm basically obsessed with them and gobble them as quickly as I can-- and I was thrilled to get 4 in our box this week. I've been supplementing our produce each week and buying apples and Asian pears, so it was nice to have them already included. The pears were gone by Thursday. (EDW and I hit up the farmer's market to visit my favorite apple vendor from Henderson county for a 1/2 peck of apples and a ton of Asian pears)

The collards, okra, 3 tomatoes, and 3 squash went into vegetable soup on Tuesday,
and everything but 1 tomato got roasted for dinner on Friday along with some chickpeas I had on hand. We had the roasted beans and veggies with cheese toast, and I discovered that string cheese does not, in fact, make great toast.
The last tomato went into a salad for dinner Sunday night, when I made lentil and bulgur soup.

We had eggs on Monday night and were quite excited for Tuesday's arrival.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

lots of vegetable soup

We had a great haul in our CSA box this week, and I was eager to cook everything. I started throwing vegetables in a pot until I had a beautiful soup on Tuesday night. I told EDW that I just kept adding things until it looked ready (I neglected to take photos, but just picture me chopping and adding ingredients and you're set) and then I called it a day. He said I should name the recipe Call It a Day Soup, but we'll go with the more traditional:

Vegetable Soup
serves 6-8

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 onion, chopped

2 T EVOO

3 tomatoes, chopped

2 T dried basil

1 T dried oregano

6 cups vegetable broth

1.5 LB fresh okra, chopped

3 summer squash, chopped
3 cups frozen lima beans

1 bunch collards, thinly sliced

salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until softened. Add tomatoes, basil, and oregano, and cook until the tomatoes release their juices. Stir in vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Add the remaining vegetables and simmer until the okra is tender and the beans are cooked, about 7-10 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with toast.

Edwin and I LOVED this soup. We both give it an A and think it's perfect, and we're so glad to have the leftovers for lunch.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

CSA Wednesday!

For the week of August 29, we received:

Bell Peppers (2 large)
Carnival Squash (2)
Pickling Cucumbers (12)
Peaches (10)
Red Potatoes (3.5 LB)
Tomatoes (4)
I shared some of the potatoes with my in-laws, and EDW and I rationed our peaches through Monday. We started out eating them by themselves and ended up having them in cereal and oats. On Monday, after I'd slurped up the last of my oatmeal with peaches and sunflower butter, I happily declared "I love peachy oats!" I make grand declarations about my morning oatmeal many times a week, but this one was different because I was focusing my praise on the peaches instead of my beloved nut butters.

Several of the cucumbers, two tomatoes, and one bell pepper starred in Tuesday night's easy fancy pasta salad,
and the squash became a mildly unsuccessful carnival squash soup, served alongside a salad with more cucumbers and tomato.
I roasted red potatoes and we mixed them with chickpeas and kale for an awkward family reunion salad,
and the last bell pepper went into a pesto frittata for a rainy Labor Day lunch. We had the frittata with a marinated vegetable salad that used the last tomato, a couple more cucumbers and a spare bell pepper.
The rest of the cucumbers were sliced and sent along with the week's lunches, and everything was finished by Tuesday afternoon.

Bring on more squash! Send me autumn greens!