Thursday, March 31

Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto

Slightly modified risotto recipe from Lidia Bastianich's "Lidia's Family Table". Key to this is to stir a lot as the result is creamier and yummier (tip: use a wooden spoon with a thicker handle for more comfort).

For Squash:
1/2 - 1 lb butternut squash, cleaned and diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1-2 tsp dried thyme
1-3 TBSP ground sage or 3-4 leaves fresh, crushed and shredded

For Risotto:
5-7 cups water or stock (heated to almost a boil - keep it hot and near your risotto pot)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
10 oz or more minced onion, leek, shallot, etc.(can pick one or combine) (2 cups or more)
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1-3 TBSP ground sage or fresh
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2-3 tsp dried thyme

For Finishing:
1/2 - 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 TBSP EVOO or Butter
Pepper & Salt to taste

Put diced butternut squash in bowl. Add 1/2 the thyme, season with salt and pepper and add just enough olive oil to coat. Place in 400F oven for 25 minutes (I like to put mine on a rack that keeps it off the baking tray to help heat circulate). Then place under broiler for 5-10 to brown a little more if needed. You can also drizzle with a little maple syrup or agave syrup to help sweeten up the squash.

Saute 1/4 cup oil, onions and 1/2 tsp salt, and about 1 TBSP sage over medium heat. Cook slowly and stirring frequently with wooden spoon until they take on a golden color (8-10 minutes). Add 1/2 cup water/stock and cook until ALL water is gone (5-10 minutes), and only glistening onions remain.

Once water is gone, add rice, raise heat to medium and stir, to coat with oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes to toast the rice (don't let them scorch or color). Add wine and stir until liquid is gone. Add 1 1/2-2 cups of hot liquid (enough to barely cover the rice). Add remaining 1/2 tsp salt....stirring often at first and then constantly as mixture thickens. Adjust heat to maintain a very gentle perking. When can see the bottom of the pan and all liquid is absorbed, add another 1 cup of liquid. Stir to blend, often as thickens. Add 2 cups liquid...and continue until consistency is reached.
(You should have added at least 5 cups if hot liquid).
Taste and check for seasoning of sage...add more if desire. (I usually stop after or around this step--after adding 5 or so cups--but you can keep going.)

Remove from heat, stir in 1-3 TBSP olive oil and grated cheese. Add in squash. Taste & season with salt and pepper.


Wednesday, March 30

Recipe: Turkey & Bean Chili

On cool Spring evenings (and throughout the Fall and Winter), a nice pot of chili is perfect. It's great to make over the weekend and have it for the week ahead. It's great on its own (topped with cheese, guac, sour cream, or whatever you like), over egg noodles, in a baked potato, and on hot dogs (chili dogs) among other things. We've even once turned it almost into a tex-mex style Shepard's Pie.

Note below, that you can make this hotter or not at all hot, depending on how you like it.

1 lb ground turkey (or beef, or omit for veggie chili)
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can pink beans
1 onion, diced (can also add some leek)
2-5 cloves garlic, smashed/diced
1 bay leaf
4-5 carrots, peeled and diced into rounds
1 small bell pepper (green or red or any color)
1-2 jalapenos, diced (if don't like heat, remove seeds and white ribs inside)
1 little can tomato paste
1 15.5oz (or so) can tomato sauce
garlic powder
chili powder (add more or less to your taste. If you want it really hot you can add hot sauce or red pepper flakes)

1. Add a little olive oil or canola oil to a hot pan. Saute onions, and once starting to turn translucent, add garlic.
2. Add jalapeno and bell pepper. Add about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 bay leaf and 2 tsp garlic powder. Stir to distribute spices evenly.
3. Add ground turkey (or beef, or skip this step if making veggie version) and saute until cooked through.
4. Add carrots and tomato paste and stir to mix in well.
5. Add tomato sauce, beans (including water...if would rather strain them, then use a LARGE can of tomato sauce).
6. Stir well, and add 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder and 2 tsp garlic powder again. Stir well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper or adjust seasonings as desired.
7. Cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes but up to 2 hours. Allow steam to evaporate a little while cooking to thicken chili. If gets too thick, add a little water or stock.
8. Serve and enjoy! Good topped with a little mexican blend cheese, avocado, sour cream. Great alone, on pasta, on baked potato, etc.

If doing a veggie version, you can add whatever veggies you like to this. It's a very flexible dish and that makes it an easy way to make it chock-a-block full of veggies.

Tuesday, March 29

Recipe: Chicken Enchilada Bake

I *love* enchiladas. But they are a pain to make the traditional way. Torn tortillas and heating and saucing. This cuts the time down considerably. Even more of a time saver is if you buy the sauce instead of making it from scratch (Trader Joe's has a great Enchilada Sauce). But of course, from fresh means you can control the salt, the flavors and really make it just how you like it. Plus you can make a lot of it at once, and freeze it until you are ready for another batch.

The Sauce:
1 onion - rough chop
1-3 poblano/ancho peppers (fresh) - depending on how hot you like it
2 large tomatoes
1 can Rotel (or 1 can diced tomatoes + jalapeno)
3-4 garlic cloves
2-3 TBSP oregano
1 small can tomato paste
1 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

Slice tomato and put on tray with poblano/ancho peppers. Drizzle with oil and season with a little salt. Put in oven under broiler (low) for 15 minutes to roast and concentrate flavors.

Blend onion, peppers, tomatoes, rotel, garlic and oregano in blender/food processor until smooth. In a saucepan, add tomato paste and saute it for 3-5 minutes to cook it a little (will add a sweetness). Add in mixture from blender/food processor. Add 1 TBSP cumin, 1 TBSP chili powder, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Cook for 1-3 hours on low heat to let flavors develop and meld, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

For Bake:
- Sauce (see above)
- Corn Tortillas (12)
- Mexican Cheese - about 2 cups
- 1 - 1.5 lbs chicken breast
- 1/2 14 oz can low-sodium Chicken Broth
- 1/2 to 1/3 onion diced

In saute pan, add a little olive oil and the diced onion. Let soften, then add chicken and enough chicken broth to cover. Season with a little salt and pepper. Cook down until broth evaporates. Shred chicken.

In a 9x13 baking dish, spread a layer of the sauce. Then cover with 6 of the corn tortillas (tip: cut them in half to have a flat edge). Add chicken in even layer, top with coating of sauce and then cheese. Top with the remaining 6 tortillas. Cover with sauce and then cheese.

Bake in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.


Monday, March 28

Recipe: French Leek Tart

Last year, we tried growing leeks for the first time. We did well with them, but I should have cut them down a bit and planned better for hilling. I did start with them planted too close together but was able to spread them out as I pulled mature leeks for use, which was an interesting way to keep cycling through them since as I moved them to have more space, they would grow larger. Anyway, here's a tasty way to use them. I think I might try this with some Spring onions.

1 (9 inch) refrigerated pie crust
2 teaspoons butter
3 leeks, chopped
1 pinch salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup light cream
1 1/4 cups shredded Gruyere cheese
2-3 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
2-3 cloves of garlic, diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
Cook up bacon. Set aside to cool, then crumble.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir in leeks and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cream and cheese, and warm through (about 2 minutes). Pour mixture into pie shell.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until custard is set and golden on top. Allow to sit 10 minutes before cutting pie into wedges.

Good served with large salad.

Sunday, March 27

Yay for eggplant

This looks so divine! Melanzane sott’olio (pickled eggplant under oil). Will have to try this! Yum.

Recipe: Middle Eastern Inspired Chickpea Salad

I love chickpeas. And I've been trying to think of ways to incorporate them more into my cooking. Last weekend I bought some supplies to make a chickpea salad, but didn't get around to actually making it. But today I did and I was pleasantly surprised at how it came out.

I kept it pretty simple, which is what I've learned to do when I'm first "creating" a recipe. In the past I got too creative and ended up with stuff that wasn't so tasty. But starting basic, with combinations you know are good together (like carrot and cumin), make for a good foundation to see how it works. Then, you can go crazy. ;) I think this would also be good with the addition of artichoke hearts, corn, and maybe even some marinated mushrooms.

- 2 cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 red onion, diced or minced
- 2 cucumbers, seeded and diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 1/2 red pepper, diced
- 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 TBSP apple cider vingar
- 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil (I didn't measure but it's around there...taste as you add)
- 1-1/2 TBPS Dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 TBSP cumin
- 2 TSP oregano
- 2 TSP onion powder
- 2 TSP garlic powder
- Salt & Pepper to taste (Wait to add salt until it's sit for a bit, because you don't want the salt to pull too much moisture out of the veg).

In a bowl, mix your vinaigrette dressing by combining the vinegars with the olive oil and whisking together. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, onion and garlic powder. Whisk again to combine. Add in the onion, chickpeas, cucumber, carrot and red pepper. Stir to coat with dressing.

Then put it in the fridge to let all the flavors combine for at least an hour or two.

Then add in some fresh chopped parsley, and grape tomatoes if you desire. You could also add in some cilantro and feta.

Eat it as is, or serve in pita pocket with dollop of tahini or thick yogurt (like greek style).

Recipe: Green Fingerling Potatoes

Made up this side dish earlier this month and was happy with how it came out. I figure if I was happy with it, you lot might want to give it a go.
1 lb. fingerling potatoes (diced into bite size pieces (halved or whole would work too depending on how you want the finished product to look)
2-4 pats of butter or olivio
1 TBSP olive oil
1/4-1/2 red onion, minced or diced + sliver
5 cloves garlic - 4 minced, 1 smashed
handful of fresh parsley, chopped fine
1/2 handful of fresh mint, chopped fine
4 scallions, diced
2-3 TBSP of basalmic vinegar
salt & pepper

Fill a pot (the one you use for boiling potatoes) with the fingerlings and then add water just to cover. Smash a garlic clove with the back of a knife (or a clean soup can), and add it to the pot. Cut a sliver of the onion, smash it and put it in the pot. Add salt. Cover and let cook until the fingerlings are a dente (you will cook them again, so you don't want them to overcook).

While the potatoes cook, prep for the next step.

When the potatoes are done, drain away the water and set aside.

In a saute pan, melt the butter. Add minced garlic. When the garlic is arromatic, add the fingerling poatoes. Stir gently to combine and coat the potatoes well. Add your mint, scallion and parsley. Stir. Add balsamic vinegar, stir. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Leftovers ROCK in a frittata.

Saturday, March 26

Potato Planning

Last year we grew potatoes from potato seed which we purchased from Wood Prairie Farm. We tried the All-Blue (a late season potato) and Cranberry Red (early season potato). Additionally, I threw in some Yukons purchased at the supermarket.

All in all the All-Blue seemed to be most prolific in terms of quantity and were tasty, as well as pretty (blue mashed potatoes were interesting!). The Cranberry Reds were OK, but I think I want to try something different this year. They claim to be a heavy yield, but we just didn't have luck with them. The few Yukons did well too.

Since it's about that time of year again, I'm thinking of Yukon Gold, and maybe their exclusive Prairie Blush. Might do the All-Blue again as well, depending on space.

Guess I need to start figuring out the beds, so I can figure out quantities.

Recipe: Israeli Couscous with Cranberries and Pecans

The internet is awesome for crowd-sourcing information. Last year, I was at a BBQ and someone brought this awesome couscous salad from Whole Foods. A quick google search and voila--I found what appeared to be at least--a very close recipe to try to replicate it on my own. After enjoying this recipe a few times, I think Israeli couscous is my preference over the smaller sized couscous, only because it's got a bit more meat to it. Of course, couscous in any shape is delicious.

Israeli Couscous with Cranberries and Pecans (a la Whole Foods)
(via chowhound)

Serves: 4-6

Time: 30-40 mins


2c Israeli couscous, uncooked
1c dried cranberries
1c toasted pecans, quartered
2 scallions, minced

3T canola oil
1.5T champagne vinegar
Zest of 1 orange
Juice of 1⁄2 the orange you just zested
1⁄2 t turmeric
1⁄2 t dried thyme
1⁄2 t dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and add the couscous. When it's done (roughly 8-10 mins, or when it's al dente), drain it but do not rinse. Set aside and let cool while you mince the scallions, toast and chop the pecans, and make the dressing.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together the canola oil, vinegar, orange zest and juice, spices and salt and pepper.

3. In a large bowl, combine the couscous, cranberries, pecans and scallions. Pour the well-whisked dressing over it and toss to combine.

4. Serve immediately, or chill in the fridge for a few hours to blend the flavors. Enjoy!

New Blog Name, New Blog Channel

It's been ages since I've posted last on this blog. And I've decided I want to make it a bit more all-encompassing to cover more than just cooking but gardening as well. So I've renamed it. The URL has changed as well to reflect that. Now, I'm really no diva but, I suppose I can pretend. :)

What this blog will be:
- Foodie stuff
- Recipes
- Gardening
- Photos
- House Stuff

And any other things I find interesting, useful or whatever.

Harvest of garlic from the garden 2010.


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