Category Archives: Intermediate Recipe

Carolina Grit Cakes With Aged Cheddar, Roasted Peppers and Caramelized Onions

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What a lovely weekend.  First off, I got to stay home for most of the weekend, a rarity these days.  The sun came out bright and shiny on Sunday.  We got to enjoy Sunday morning in bed listening to our BBC Radio Drama, The Archers, and eating migas breakfast tacos (one of the most perfect breakfasts EVER).  But the best thing about this weekend was that we hosted our very first house concert/potluck ever with the remarkable Michigan artist, Joshua Davis. Continue reading

Asian Lettuce Cups With Spicy Dipping Sauce

Asian Lettuce Wraps

I really grappled with what I should title this post.  Why, you ask?  Well….this dish is based on tofu.  Now, I know a good number of people.  And if there is one thing I know, it’s that they probably don’t all agree on the topic of tofu.  Some eat tofu, some eat it if they have to, some would never let it pass their lips, and some tried it and don’t like it.  It’s a pretty polarizing ingredient to be sure so I hesitate to call it out from the get-go, afraid it will turn off the fussy eaters among us.

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Tamales With Sweet Potato, Green Chili, and Cheese

Tamales

Fasten your seatbelts, folks.  It’s going to be a long post.  You can skip to the bottom for the recipe if you want, I won’t be offended.  But if you do, before you do, here are the Cliff’s Notes:  ramblings on Christmas fun, Happy New Year(!), shame, perfectionism, joy, life lessons, resolutions or goals, and how I came to make these sweet potato, green chili, cheese tamales with tomatillo salsa.  Okay–you are excused.  See ya at the bottom for the recipe!

Alright, diehards, here it goes.

I am getting back to reality after a week of relaxing, both at home in Grand Rapids and in the Upper Peninsula, where I grew up.  We spent the last week reading (Joseph Heywood’s Wood Cops series is awesome!), snowshoeing (new snowshoes for Christmas!), walking around historic downtown Marquette (we had a night at the historic Landmark Inn–what a treat!), and hiking to see some beautiful ice caves about twenty minutes from where I grew up.  I haven’t been to the ice caves as an adult and I feel truly blessed that I have someone who I can enjoy doing things with and that he digs checking out giant frozen icicles and other wonders of nature with his Yooper gal.  I’m still bewildered that someone could enjoy the same things I enjoy as much as I do myself.

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Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Charred Red Onion Tacos

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I’ve always envied those that are able to do what they love for their livelihood.  Although there are certainly downsides to it (as most authors, musicians, and artists know), there is great appeal to this lifestyle.  My sweetie is able to do what he loves, playing music and building instruments, and usually makes ends meet with the modest income that comes in.  It may not be all roses all the time, but there is something to be said about being able to have the time to spend on developing specialized skills and enjoying one’s passion.

Over the last few weeks Drew has been working long hours in the woodshop building a gourd banjo.  As a luthier (a beautiful way to say “builder of stringed instruments”) and newly learned clawhammer banjo player, he was intrigued when he heard Bob Lucas play a gourd banjo at a symposium called Common Ground on the Hill earlier this summer.  A couple of months later, he began to study plans of existing gourd banjos and set about building one himself.  After hours (and hours..and hours) of reading, planning and ordering supplies, and just a few weeks after the inaugural cutting of one large gourd, shipped from California, he sits playing his beautiful gourd banjo in the kitchen.

I am amazed that building a gourd banjo went from an idea of his to now, a few weeks later, a reality.  I do not have the skills required to build a musical instrument or the passion to do so myself but I most certainly am in awe of this beautiful instrument created by his hands.

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I do like my job and find excitement and satisfaction from it at times.  But as grateful for it as I am (and grateful for steady employment that affords us a comfortable home and meets all of our basic needs) I cannot honestly say it is my life’s passion.  Luckily, I get to spend time with my true passion from time to time and sometimes I even get to share it with others.  Tonight I volunteer taught a cooking class at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (a wonderful cancer and grief support clubhouse) and I got that feeling that I think Drew must feel when he is working on building a banjo or a guitar.  I felt like I was doing something that I could do forever.  I was completely relaxed, had fun, and felt so passionate about sharing my love for cooking with a great group of women.

Because I cook so much (daily), I sometimes take for granted the skills that I’ve acquired in the kitchen.  I’m just a simple home cook when it comes down to it but I am surprised when I show a class how to do something and they are excited and delighted by it.  Tonight I showed the women how to make a Mexican meal using butternut squash and black beans.  We made butternut squash and black bean chili and these butternut squash, black bean, and charred onion tacos.  At various points in the class I became animated and excited to show random little tips as they popped into my head.  How to slice an avocado in its peel.  How to peel and cut a butternut squash.  That you can eat the skin of a delicata squash.  That you can boil apple cider down into a glaze.  That you can warm and char a tortilla directly on the flame of a gas stove.  That you don’t have to measure everything exactly.  That a little chocolate in chili adds depth and richness.  Usually these little joys of the kitchen stay with me.  I am usually pretty quiet in the kitchen at home, choosing silence over music, focusing on the meditative act of chopping vegetables and washing dishes.  I usually take the little aha moments with cooking for granted or I assume that they will not delight anyone other than myself.  It was brilliant fun tonight to not only share my love for cooking but to have fourteen women clap, smile, and say mmmmmm along with me while I cooked, learned (yup–still learning!), and dished up samples of our fall fiesta.

I do hope you try these tacos.  They are a unique way to use my favorite fall vegetable, butternut squash.  They are filling and hearty, aromatic and flavorful.  It’s really a compliment when someone who loves meat tacos deems these an A++ (thanks, hon!).  Needless to say, if I ever have a restaurant, these are making the menu.

And whatever your passion, I hope you get to spend a few moments with it today.

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Butternut Squash Tacos with Charred Red Onion and Black Beans (and a bunch of yummy toppings!)

Tacos:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup black beans, dried and cooked, or canned is fine too—be sure to drain well
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 12 corn tortillas

For topping:

  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup queso fresco (Mexican crumbling cheese)
  • ½ cup lowfat sour cream
  • 1 scallion (green onion), thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
  • Sriracha (garlic-chili hot sauce, a.k.a. “Rooster Sauce”)
  1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil.
  2. Prepare the squash:  Cut the bottom off of the butternut squash to create a flat surface and stand squash on its end.  Cut the squash down the middle, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard (or…as reader Natashia suggests, you can clean and roast them, spreading out on a baking sheet as if you were roasting pumpkin seeds–takes about 20 minutes).  Peel the outside of the squash with a knife, taking care to always have a flat surface for stability.  Slice the squash into ½ inch slices.  Cut the slices into ½ inch diameter matchsticks, about 5 inches long.
  3. Place the squash sticks onto the oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Don’t crowd the pan—use two pans if needed.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Poke with a  fork to test for doneness—the fork should easily pierce the squash and the squash should still hold its shape.  Remove from the oven when done.
  4. In the meantime, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil on medium high in a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet and add the onions and garlic along with a sprinkle of salt.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have browned and softened slightly.  Add the beans to the pan along with the cumin and stir for a moment until heated through.
  5. Heat a small skillet over high heat and add tortillas to the pan, one at a time, turning until they are heated and a little crisp.  Once all tortillas are heated, add a few sticks of squash to each, a large spoonful of the onion and bean mixture, and any toppings you like (from the toppings listed above).  Squeeze a wedge of lime over each and serve with Sriracha or another hot sauce on the side.

Makes 12 tacos

Samaritans, The Gift of Food…and Fresh Spring Rolls With a Thai Dipping Sauce

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A week and a half ago I met a remarkable woman whose work brought me to tears and who gave me a sense of hope in the kindness of others.  Shura Wallin, the founder of Green Valley Samaritans in Sahuarita, AZ, spoke to a small group of like-minded participants of a seminar discussion at the Circle Pines 75th Anniversary Celebration in Southwest Michigan.  A tiny woman with a huge heart, a big message, and a spitfire to boot, shared with us her stories of locating migrants who are found suffering and offering them first aid, food, and water to prevent them from dying in the desert as they cross the border and make their way toward Tucson.

Her stories were touching and she reminded me just how closely tied we are to others and how we can always find a common thread of understanding to carry us past differences of personality, religion, politics, and all other ‘issues’ that can stand in the way of finding common ground.  If we try, we can usually find a common thread despite our differences.

One of the reasons I love food and cooking so much is that it offers a common ground and shared experience.  Drop the politics and a group of people coming together over good food can come to coexist over the shared joy of food.

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It is also the finest way I know to show someone you care for them.  For me, cooking healthy but tasty foods and sharing them with those I love is the simplest gesture of love I can offer.  I love having friends over to share a meal with us.  I love sending them home, bellies full and leftovers in hand to enjoy for lunch the next day.  To me, food is love.

Not too long ago (but long enough ago to make me feel like I’m behind on posting!) I whipped up these spring rolls when our friend, Natalia, had a canceled flight and ended up staying the night with us.  Although I’m sure she wasn’t thrilled about the canceled flight, I was overjoyed at the opportunity to have her for dinner.  It was a hot and sticky night that called for something fresh and cooling.  We had a wonderful night hanging out and I loved hearing Natalia and Drew share their new songs with each other. I felt lucky to share an unexpected meal with a very cool new friend.

This recipe is great because it satisfies those who eat gluten-free, vegans (without the sauce or with a modified sauce), and vegetarians, as well as meat eaters and picky eaters.  The fresh spring rolls seem to be a universally enjoyed dish, at least amongst the many friends I’ve served them to.

Fresh spring rolls can be concocted in a myriad of ways–this is just the way I do it most of the time.  Feel free to experiment or pick and choose various components from other recipes.  Here are a couple of others to pick and choose from:  Fresh Spring Rolls from Cooking Light (2004), Fresh Vegetable Rolls from Cooking Light (1999).

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Fresh Spring Rolls With a Thai Dipping Sauce–Serves 4

Dipping Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oolek (garlic chili paste)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated carrot

Spring Rolls:

  • 12  (8-inch) round sheets rice paper
  • Head of butter lettuce (tender leaved lettuce)
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1 cup julienned cucumber
  • 1 cup shredded radishes
  • 1/2 cup basil and/or mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 block of extra firm tofu, drained and pressed for 1 hour (for instructions, click here), cut into fat matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or high quality soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil or olive oil
  1. Add oil to a wok or skillet and heat until very hot.  Toss tofu into pan–you’ll need to keep an eye on it to avoid burning and toss with a spatula or spoon until browned.  Turn off the heat and dash the soy sauce onto the pan.  Toss tofu into sauce and let sit to cool for a bit before making the rolls.
  2. To prepare dipping sauce, combine all six ingredients.  Stir until sugar dissolves.   Let sit while making spring rolls.
  3. To make the spring rolls, put an inch or two of hot water in a wide, shallow dish with sides.  I sometimes clean out the sink and fill it with water if I can’t find a bowl right away.
  4. Place one rice paper sheet at a time into the water.  Let soften–it will take about 30 seconds.  Don’t soften too much or the sheet will fall apart–you’ll get the hang of it after a couple of tries.  Put rice paper sheet on clean counter or a large plate.  Put one piece of lettuce in the center of the sheet and top with carrots, cucumber, radishes, tofu, and some chopped herbs.  Fold one edge over the filling, then both sides, rolling as you go.  The rice paper will stick and form a seal.  Press the seam if it doesn’t automatically stick.  Put the spring roll on a platter, covering with a wet paper towel to keep from sticking.
  5. Repeat with remaining ingredients until you are out of either filling or papers.  Slice on a diagonal, arrange on a beautiful platter, and serve with dipping sauce.

Berry Almond Skillet Cake With a Side of Good News

Happy spring, everyone!  Spring has finally arrived here in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Spring is my favorite season.  It is a time of renewal, fresh starts, and an emergence of life and beauty long-forgotten and buried under layers of snow.  This winter was a particularly long one so this spring is unfolding as the most beautiful I can recall.  To wake up hearing birdsong is an incredible thing but it is even more incredible to walk outside and be surrounded by green grass, flowering cherry, pear, and magnolia trees, tulips, daffodils, myrtle and phlox.  My favorites are the tulips surrounding my house and scattered in vases throughout my house.

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This spring has been one of change and fresh starts for me.  I have been so busy lately and am working really hard to find time to blog about all of the dishes I have been making.  For every five dishes I make, one makes it to the blog.  One of these days I’ll take a blogging vacation, plop myself in a beautiful locale, and catch up on my posts….!  Luckily, the things that are keeping me busy outside of my busy work schedule are all positive things.  Moving the sweetie into my house has been a huge change and learning experience for me.  Turns out, I got used to living alone but I am looking forward to getting un-used to it and love the new comforts of home that he brings.  I just bought my first pair of waders and am going to learn how to fly fish on our drive out to Colorado next week!  On the food side, lately I have been making many more connections with the local food community and I am loving every minute of it.  Over the last few months I have created a Back to Basics series for the Grand Rapids Cooking School and Uptown Kitchen, have begun a Meatless Monday feature on Dr. Mary MD’s blog, was invited to participate in a Green Market Expo, and starting this week, will begin contributing a “Spotlight on Produce” series for the Uptown Kitchen blog and for The Rapidian, our hyper-local Grand Rapids news and culture source.  Each week I will shop at the Fulton Street Farmer’s Market and feature a recipe about one of the in-season vegetables or fruits sold by our local farmers.  Very exciting stuff!

And now…for the BIG NEWS.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, on Friday I received the most exciting email.  Cooking Light invited me to become one of their bloggers for the Cooking Light Bloggers Connection. Let’s just say, I was so excited that I squealed when I read the email.  And I am so thrilled that this hobby of mine has been noticed by one of my favorite publications and will be shared with a wider audience moving forward!  I will be adding a Cooking Light Blogger badge to my site and a couple of times a month, will be letting you all know about a recipe or featured article on the Cooking Light website.  I have been a subscriber to Cooking Light for about ten years and have really enjoyed seeing them grow and become the fresh and exciting publication they are today so am really excited to share some of their recipes and features with you moving forward.  Cooking Light may also ask me to provide tips and articles to them for publication on their website (which would be SO COOL).  My profile will be added to the Cooking Light Bloggers Connection page in the next week or so and I’ll share that when it becomes live.

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To celebrate this exciting news, I baked a cake.  But first I have to tell you about another form of spring renewal.  My handy guy spent a couple of days restoring two cast iron skillets to their original glory (everything deserves a second chance, he said).  One was rusty and long lost in the basement.  The other was caked with years and years of build-up and was getting bumpy and flaky.  He devised an experiment, using electrolysis to remove the build up then expertly blued then cured them.  For a couple of days it looked like we were up to no good in the back yard, with a battery charger hooked to a metal plate submerged in a large rubber tub.  I’ll share the details with you all soon and there is even a video of this awesome process that I’ll share some other time.  The skillets turned out beautifully and work better than any other pans I own.  We are a 4 cast-iron skillet and 2 cast-iron dutch oven household now, with another on the way.

Okay…did I lose you when I started talking about the science of restoring cast iron?  Back to the food.

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I have been coming up with any excuse to use these skillets lately.  Growing up, we made cornbread in our skillets about once a week and I’ve never made it any other way since.  With that memory in mind, and wanting to celebrate cast iron and change, I set about making a sweeter cake with blackberries, blueberries, and almonds.

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Both blackberries and blueberries are out of season so I used frozen blueberries and bought some organic blackberries from the grocery store.  In honor of Cooking Light, I made this cake using a couple of my tricks to reduce fat:  apple sauce and sour cream. This cake came together in minutes, filled the house with amazingly delightful scents, and turned out dense, moist, and just sweet enough to feel decadent.  As it turns out, it tastes even better eaten as a snack in the middle of an afternoon of fly fishing (or so I am told).

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I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  Thanks for your support and for being wonderful friends and followers.

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Berry Almond Skillet Cake

Makes 8 generous servings

  • 1 1/8 cup of all purpose, unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup of almond meal
  • 2 teaspoons of aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons low-fat sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened apple sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon of butter to oil the skillet
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 5 oz container of blackberries
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  1. Preheat your oven to 350°. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, almond meal, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients: buttermilk, eggs, lemon juice, melted butter, sour cream, apple sauce, and almond extract.
  3. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix to combine.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon of butter to a 10-inch cast iron skillet and place on a burner at medium heat until the butter is melted and the pan is hot. Swirl the butter to coat the skillet, then pour in the batter.
  5. Scatter berries and sliced almonds on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or at room temperature with your morning coffee for an extra-special treat.

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Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze

Seitan Jicama and Pineapple Tacos

I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world but here it is the Winter-That-Never-Ends or the Spring-That-Never-Comes (there are still 3 feet of snow where my poor mom lives in the Upper Peninsula so I’ll hush now).  Today was dark and rainy, so dark that I had to turn on the lights in my house as though it was nighttime.  I needed a pick-me-up.  Pronto.  So I made this lively and lovely fajita recipe, courtesy of Mark Bittman.  Thanks to the darling Margarita at Let’s Cook and Be Friends for choosing this recipe as the Food Matters Project recipe of the week.  The original recipe is called “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas” and can be found on Margarita’s blog by clicking here.  This being a vegetarian blog, I ended up making mine with seitan (seasoned wheat gluten) instead of steak.  But if you prefer, you can substitute meat or any meat substitute in this recipe and it will still be delicious.  If you want to check out what the other FMP bloggers came up with, head to the Food Matters Project website for more.

Browned Seitan

Browned Seitan

This recipe uses jicama, an often forgotten vegetable in my cooking repertoire.  Jicama tastes a little bit like a green apple when it is uncooked.  Cooked, it retains a pleasant crunch and light sweetness.  The pineapple and limes in this recipe really bring out the tropical flavors of this dish.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

Radishes, Jicama, Onions, Bell Peppers, and Limes ready to go in the skillet.

I tried these in taco-form initially but really ended up coming to the conclusion that this is just as good as a stand-alone or served over a bed of rice.

Deconstructed Fajitas

Deconstructed Fajitas

Each bite is a reminder of the summer that I know will eventually come.  It was a great pick-me-up today and along with my chaser of hot yoga, by the end of the day I was sitting pretty.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Tropical Fajitas With Jicama and Pineapple-Lime Glaze
Adapted from “Not Your Usual Steak Fajitas”; Mark Bittman, The Food Matters Cookbook
Makes: 4 servings        Time: 40 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of seitan, thinly sliced (don’t feel limited by this–if you prefer you can use steak, chicken, tofu, or any other protein you want–this dish would also be great with veggies alone if you don’t have protein on hand)
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 or 2 fresh hot chiles (like jalapeno or Thai), seeded and minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 8 ounces jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 cup cubed fresh pineapple
  • ¼ cup lime juice
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  • Warm corn or whole wheat tortillas, for serving, optional
  1. Put a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and, a few seconds later, the seitan/protein. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and stir immediately. Cook, stirring every 20 seconds or so for just a minute or 2 until it has some nice charring on it. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the onion, bell peppers, chile, and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  3. Raise the heat to high again and add the jicama, radishes, and carrots. Stir immediately, then cook, stirring every 30 seconds or so, until the vegetables soften and begin to char slightly, 3-5 minutes. Transfer everything to the plate with the seitan/protein.
  4. Add the pineapple, lime juice, and water to the skillet. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring to scrape any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan, until the glaze thickens a little. Return all the vegetables and seitan/protein to the pan and toss to coat with the lime and pineapple mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with warm tortillas.

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Michigan Maple Syrup and a Lovely Easter Weekend

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

This weekend we finally got a taste of spring for one day before it got cold again. My sweetie and I seized the opportunity to get outside after a long winter and opted to head to the Blandford Nature Center to celebrate just being outside without freezing our nose hairs off.  Michiganders are funny creatures.  You know you are in Michigan when it’s the first 40 degree day and you see a convertible with the top down.  True story.

Anyway…I want to tell you about this great place.  The Blandford Nature Center is just outside of Grand Rapids and has almost 150 acres to explore.  It is also home to an amazing environmental school that any kid would be lucky to attend.  I love the perspective they take:  Blandford Nature Center believes children and adults learn best through personal experience. Our job, and our passion, is to invite our community to get their hands dirty in nature – whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden.

We walked the trails for a couple of hours, visited all of the injured animals (mostly birds–the owls were adorable!) that have found a permanent home at Blandford, and took a ton of photos.  The trails were great and I was THRILLED to be walking around outside in the sunshine.  Can you tell?

Walking through the woods--and just so happy to be outside!

Walking through the woods–and just so happy to be outside!

The best part, though, was visiting the sugar shack to watch maple sap boil down into maple syrup.

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

 Every 6th grader at the three environmental schools in Grand Rapids gets their own tree to tap at the nature center.  What a cool learning experience.  We saw both the modern method of making maple syrup and the native way of making maple syrup.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

When I was a kid my family tapped all of the trees lining our property, which gave us enough maple syrup to get through the year.  Did you know it takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup?  As you can imagine, that take a lot of time and a lot of boiling.  I very fondly remember standing outside in the snow around the barrel stove fitted with a stainless steel pan, waiting as the sap boiled down.  The aroma of the boiling sap is a scent memory I will never forget and one that I am at a loss for words to describe.  When we walked into the sugar shack and smelled that amazing aroma, I was on cloud nine, transported back to the U.P. in early spring.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

As you can imagine, we simply had to buy a quart of this syrup after watching it being made.  We couldn’t wait to try some and decided that Easter morning we would make buckwheat blueberry pancakes and douse them in this liquid gold.  And we sure did.  It was everything a Sunday should be.  Sleeping in, eating pancakes after noon, listening to the Archers Omnibus (the longest running radio drama, aired in the U.K.–I am hooked!), and making a Ukranian egg.  Although Easter was decidedly un-Eastery I must say it was still a lovely, lovely day and truly a beautiful weekend.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday.  I grew up with this great tradition.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday. I grew up with this great tradition.

For the pancakes, I just pulled a recipe from the Food Network website.  The only difference was that I used frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh (fresh taste so icky to me out of season).

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes adapted ever so slightly from The Food Network

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey, eggs, and oil.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. Stir in 1 cup of fresh or still-frozen berries (if you are using frozen berries, thaw the other cup of berries at this time so they are thawed for serving but make sure the blueberries you add to the batter are still frozen otherwise they will turn your batter blue!).
  4. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium flame. Ladle the batter onto the skillet with a 1/4-cup measure. Flip the pancake when it is golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with more blueberries and the maple syrup, your favorite book, and your coziest PJs.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/blueberry-buckwheat-pancakes-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Indian Cooking At Home: Easy Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil and Vegetable Dal

Welcome to another Food Matters Project/Meatless Monday!  Today, Anita from Cooking Poetry chose Dal With Lots of Vegetables from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project Cookbook.  I love making a quick and easy dal and have been meaning for some time to show everyone what I typically do for a quick and easy weeknight supper.  You can add whatever vegetables you want.  Today I kept it simple, adding just carrots and onions.  Cauliflower, eggplant, tomato, potato all work well in this dish also.  You can fiddle with the combination of spices to find something that you like and that works with your current pantry contents.  I served mine with whole wheat naan and basmati rice. This dish is hard to mess up so have fun with it and enjoy!

To see the other FMP cooks’ takes on this dish, head over to The Food Matters Project website.

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Easy Vegetable and Red Lentil Dal adapted from Mark Bittman The Food Matters Cookbook

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
  • 1 tbsp butter, ghee, or olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tbs minced ginger
  • 1 tbs minced garlic
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into little chunks
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 2 dried mild chilis
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, washed and picked over
  • Salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar, optional
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
  1.  Put the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, ginger, garlic, and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the cardamom, cumin, mustard seeds, garam masala, cinnamon, and chilis and stir until the spices are fragrant but not burning, just a minute.
  2. Add the lentils and cover with water by about 1 inches. Cook until lentils and vegetables are tender and the mixture is thick, about 35-45 minutes.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and serve.

Parmesan Polenta with Honey Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Alright, the secret’s out.  I love polenta.  I’ll take a big gob of polenta any day over a bed of pasta or rice.  And so many dishes taste fantastic spooned over polenta that it is hard to go wrong.  Some of  my favorite ways to eat polenta are:  with marinara and goat cheese, with roasted vegetables, with Provencal vegetables en papillote, with fried eggs and spinach, with fried eggs and avocado, with a tomato-vegetable stew…the list goes on.  Polenta is also gluten-free.  And really beautiful, if you ask me.  It makes for a quick meal that is impressive enough to serve for guests.

Polenta With Roasted Root Veggies and Pistachio-Goat Cheese

The recipe I’m adding to my polenta-files today is Parmesan polenta with Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese.  This is a simple meal to make but the results are creamy, filling, and decadent.

Parmesan Polenta with Roasted Root Veggies

Parmesan Polenta with Honey-Roasted Root Vegetables and Pistachio Goat Cheese

Serves 4

For the root veggies:

  • 1 large beet
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1/2 celery root
  • 1 leek, white part only, sliced 1/4 of an inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • generous pinch of sea salt

Heat oven to 400°.  Put veggies in a covered baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, honey, and a generous pinch of salt.  Bake for 30 minutes and test for doneness.  The veggies should be silky but still hold their shape.  Pop back in the oven for 10 minutes if the veggies need more time.

For the polenta:

  • 4 cups water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup medium-grain yellow polenta
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • pepper to taste
  1. Heat water to a boil over high heat.  Have a whisk ready and quickly whisk in the polenta.  Whisk for a moment to discourage clumping.
  2. Lower heat to a simmer, add the butter, a large pinch of salt, and a small pinch of pepper.
  3. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Taste the polenta and add salt or pepper to your preference.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese.

For the pistachio goat cheese:

  • Olive oil
  • 6 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  1. Combine the goat cheese and pistachios in a food processor. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and, with the machine running, drizzle in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. If the mixture doesn’t come together, add more oil until the filling is smooth and fluffy. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper if needed.
  2. Transfer the goat cheese mixture to a pastry bag or a zip-lock bag with the corner cut off (or you can just use a teaspoon for this). Squeeze or spoon dabs of the filling onto the roasted root veggies.