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Friday, November 25, 2011

grilled broccoli and lemons and parmesan roasted broccoli and onions

This week is "Broccoli Ten Ways in Five Days" where I am trying out all 10 recipe suggestions Real Simple Magazine highlighted for broccoli in their September 2011 issue. Today is day five. You can browse day onetwothree and four if you'd like.

 Yes, indeed, I woke up this morning, Black Friday, the day after I went to bed in a food stupor, and did I rush out to buy the latest and greatest for those I love? No, I did not. I got up and cooked broccoli. For breakfast. 

Do you see how much I love you people? I didn't want to disappoint you by not finishing off the tenth broccoli recipe from Real Simple Magazine.  That, and I hate to not finish what I started.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of family and fun, love and laughter. I know I did.

Grilled Broccoli and Lemons

This recipe was the last one I made (just 20 minutes ago). I was only avoiding it because the thought of getting the girl fired up seemed like so much work. As it turns out, I wouldn't get the grill fired up just for this broccoli probably, but if I were planning to grill dinner, this is an excellent side dish.

Cut 1 bunch broccoli into 8 large spears and cut 2 lemons into quarters. In a large bowl, toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill the broccoli and lemons over medium heat, turning occasionally, until tender and lightly charred, 10 to 15 minutes. Squeeze the lemons over the broccoli and drizzle with additional olive oil.

Parmesan Roasted Broccoli and Onions

This was the family favorite of the 10 broccoli recipes. As a matter of fact, my daughter asked "Can we have this a lot more often?" For something so simple, folks, we have a winner!

Toss 1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets, 6 cups) and 1 small red onion (cut into wedges) with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 cup grated parmesan on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 F, tossing once, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

broccoli and pepper stir-fry and broccoli, orange and olive salad

This week is "Broccoli Ten Ways in Five Days" where I am trying out all 10 recipe suggestions Real Simple Magazine highlighted for broccoli in their September 2011 issue. Today is day four. You can browse day onetwo and three if you'd like.

Today, I have a main-ish dish, and a salad for you. I can't say that today is going to be our best broccoli day this week, sadly. Neither one of these was horrible, but neither one was super duper, either.

The first is Broccoli and Pepper Stir-Fry. It is actually pretty good. It's just not exciting. I do stir-frys a lot, and this one doesn't stand out. If you are not a stir-fryer, this is a good starter lesson. With just a couple of common vegetables and a fail-proof sauce (from a jar), you really can't go wrong. If you are desperate to get rid of some broccoli, this is a quick and serviceable way to do so. Just don't plan to be blown away.

Broccoli and Pepper Stir-Fry
Cook 1 chopped bell pepper, 1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets, 6 cups), 1 bunch scallions (sliced), and 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger in canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, tossing often, until the broccoli is tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 cup each water and hoisin sauce and cook, tossing, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

 Broccoli, Orange, and Olive Salad
This recipe is probably the one I was least interested in trying. As a matter of fact, if I hadn't had the hair brained idea (and an overabundance of bunches of broccoli), I never would have bothered with it. Somehow, reading the recipe didn't excite me too much. There are more ingredients than some of the others, but somehow they didn't seem like enough. The recipe uses all things that I love (broccoli, olives, oranges), but somehow the combination didn't feel like it was going to be so fabulous. And guess what? It may be that I set myself up to dislike it, but whether it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or not, I didn't love it. The flavors weren't strong enough, so I went back and added a bit more salt and pepper. All that gave me was a case of sneezing. Oy vey. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't... much.

Steam 1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets, 6 cups) until tender, 5 to 7 minutes; rinse with cold water to cool. In a large bowl, toss with 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives (chopped), 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the grated zest and cut-out segments from 1 orange (squeeze in any juice remaining in the membranes); season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

happy thanksgiving

from the pilgrims and the indians...

Creamy broccoli and apple slaw and broccoli and blue cheese salad

This week is "Broccoli Ten Ways in Five Days" where I am trying out all 10 recipe suggestions Real Simple Magazine highlighted for broccoli in their September 2011 issue. Today is day three. You can browse day one and two if you'd like.

Today I have two salads for you, and once again they are very different. One is made with steamed broccoli and topped with a creamy blue cheese dressing; the other is a raw broccoli slaw, that has a bit of tang to it. I loved them both, but I came to the realization that I am a slaw lover. I like the way it is chopped fine, which makes for easy eating. I also love that the dressing is evenly distributed, and it keeps well. That makes it super convenient to make ahead. I never miss lunch when I have some slaw in the fridge. I can just pull it out and it is ready to eat... so even if I only have 2 minutes for lunch (which seems all too often) I still have a decent lunch, filled with fresh veggies.

Creamy Broccoli and Apple Slaw

This was just divine. I didn't change anything from the recipe, and when I make it again, I won't change anything then, either.

In a large bowl, mix together 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt, 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and 1 chopped small shallot; season with salt and pepper. Add 1/2 bunch finely chopped broccoli (3 cups), 1/2 finely chopped apple, 1/4 cup dried cranberries, and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts and toss to combine.

Broccoli and Blue Cheese Salad

I was SO looking forward to trying this one because, well, blue cheese. Yum. I did love it, but I think if I were to make it again, I wouldn't steam the broccoli. I would leave it raw and chop it more finely. The steamed broccoli just tends to leak water forever, and that kind of ruins the look of it all. I don't like broccoli water swirling with creamy dressing. Call me crazy. The flavor was excellent, though! That dressing is going on a lot of salads around here, I can assure you.

Steam 1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets, 6 cups) until tender, 5 to 7 minutes; rinse with cold water to cool. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup buttermilk, 2 tablespoons sour cream, 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese, 1 sliced scallion, and 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Top the broccoli with the buttermilk dressing and 1/2 cup toasted walnuts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sautéed broccoli, tomatoes, and bacon ... and ... broccoli gratin with crispy onions

This week is "Broccoli Ten Ways in Five Days" where I am trying out all 10 recipe suggestions Real Simple Magazine highlighted for broccoli in their September 2011 issue.

The two recipes I used for today are both side dishes, but they are very different. One is sautéed in bacon grease, and the other is slowly simmered in a basic white sauce.

I was really looking forward to the Broccoli Gratin with Crispy Onions. The photo in Real Simple made it look so creamy and yummy, and as much as I hate to admit it, I really really like those freeze-dried onion thingies that are sprinkled on top. I can't say I didn't like the finished product, but I will admit this one disappointed me a little bit. The fontina cheese they asked for just doesn't have much flavor to it. I think if I was going to do this one again, I would try swiss cheese, or at least a combination. Other than being a tiny bit bland, I can't complain. The broccoli remains crunchy enough, the recipe is certainly easy to do, and those onions? Just what they always are. Yummy.

Broccoli Gratin with Crispy Onions
Cook 2 tablespoons each butter and flour in a saucepan over medium heat, whisking, for 1 minute. Whisk in 2 cups whole milk. Add 1 bunch chopped broccoli (6 cups); season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tender, 8 to 12 minutes. Add 1 cup grated fontina, transfer to a baking dish, and top with 1 cup French-fried onions. Bake at 350 F until browned, 5 to 7 minutes.

The other recipe, Sautéed Broccoli, Tomatoes and Bacon, wasn't amazing either. Don't get me wrong, bacon is just good. Good, good, good. But somehow, sautéing the broccoli in the bacon grease just made it taste a little bitter. Or maybe the acidic tomatoes didn't mesh well? Either way, this was a dish that was just fine to eat, but nothing I would try again. I was hoping for some kind of new BLT epiphany, and I got a decent side dish, but nothing to write home about.

Sautéed Broccoli, Tomatoes, and Bacon

Cook 4 slices bacon (cut into 1-inch pieces) in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes; transfer to a plate. To the skillet, add 1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets; 6 cups) and 1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved). Cook, tossing often, until the broccoli is tender, 8 to 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the bacon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

curried broccoli couscous and mashed potatoes and broccoli

When we got our first box from Abundant Harvest Organics last November, we were headed into the long winter months. Lots of citrus and greens, lots of root vegetables, and LOTS of tubers.

One other thing there was lots of was broccoli. I thought I remembered there being a few weeks in a row where I got 8 or more heads of broccoli in my box. Then I thought surely I was mistaken. Eight heads? That's pretty ridiculous.

Still, I knew it was coming, and whether my memory was making a mountain our of a molehill or not, we would soon be getting at least a molehill of broccoli soon.

So, when the September issue of Real Simple magazine had a two-page spread called "10 Ideas For: Broccoli" I was sure to keep it.  If you don't get the magazine, this is a regular monthly feature. It always highlights one common food (chicken breasts, ground beef, tortillas, cupcakes) and provides 10 quick recipes using that ingredient. In September, they chose broccoli.

And as it turns out, my memory was not faulty. I did remember a mountain of broccoli.  I indeed got eight heads of broccoli last week and another 7 this week. Oy vey.

I decided I would try all of Real Simple's suggestions. After all, I certainly have enough broccoli to go around! The question is, which of these ideas will I like enough to use again with my remaining 5 heads?
And which will end up in the round file?

So, this week is going to be called (drum roll, please)

Broccoli: Ten Ways in Five Days
Here are the other four days:
day two
day three
day four
day five

First up, we have Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli

I thought this was kind of a stretch. Why make "Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli" when you could just make mashed potatoes and broccoli? It seemed like a pretty weak tenth idea.

I have to admit, though, I was wrong. This is one instance where the sum is more than the parts. The broccoli gives the potatoes an almost creamier texture, and together they taste great! (However, I have to admit my kids would rather have eaten the broccoli and mashed potatoes separately).

Steam 1/2 bunch finely chopped broccoli (3 cups) and 1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces) until very tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain well and mash with 1/4 cup sour cream and 4 tablespoons softened butter; season with salt and pepper.

As our second entry for broccoli week, we have: Curried Broccoli and Couscous

This one really impressed me and will definitely become a part of the regular rotation. My kids liked the sweetness of the curry powder and raisins, and I like the healthy factor, and the fact that it is super easy to put together.  This could be a main dish for lunch, or a side dish with dinner. However, it only uses 1/4 bunch of broccoli, which hardly puts a dent in my fridge.


Cook 1/4 bunch finely chopped broccoli (1 1/2 cups) in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, tossing, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1 cup canned chickpeas (rinsed), 1 cup after, 1/3 cup golden raisins, 1 teaspoons curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and bring to a boil. Stir in 3/4 cup couscous, cover, remove from heat, and let steam for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy anniversary to my veggies

We made it. Phew.

It has been one year since we started getting the box of organic produce from Abundant Harvest Organics.

I can't believe how much this box of veggies has transformed our lives.

I have always been mildly interested in eating organic foods. We used to shop the farmer's marked for much of our produce, but the farmer's market, at least in my town, is expensive! Once is a while there is something at the peak of its season that the farmer is interested in unloading for cheap, but mostly we would spend $50-60 each time we were there. And then still round out our purchases with more produce from the grocery store. While at the grocery store, I would have a little debate in my mind... organic onions? Or half-as-expensive onions?

After we started getting our AHO box, though, I got even more interested in the idea of eating organic. Partly because it was sitting there in my kitchen, piquing my interest. Partly because once I started talking about the veggies I had to deal with week after week, other people gave me tips, information, articles, recipes, recommendations, and books. Partly because I now had so many odd vegetables, that as I looked up recipes for them, I found myself on blogs and websites that promote an organic lifestyle. Once you start researching something, the snowball grows. Each article links to other articles, or references books, or quotes movies. I would follow those leads to find more leads.

I also found blogs and books, documents and documentaries that promote vegan eating, raw eating, local eating, gluten-free eating, foraged-foods eating, and all kinds of other sub-groups. They want me to choose raw milk, raw honey, raw food. Soaked grains, soaked almonds, and soaked seeds. Heirloom turkeys and heirloom tomatoes. Pastured eggs and beef, unpasteurized milk and yogurt. Some of these sources of information are interesting because they make a good point. Others... are good entertainment. 

I am still muddling my way through what changes are worth making and what ideas are silly. I am also trying to work my way through what I can physically accomplish in the 24 hours a day I have to work with.

There are so many factors to consider:
Buy local! It's good for the environment and the small farmers.
Buy heirloom! It's good for the future of the species. We are losing the variety in our diets that our great-grandmothers had.
Make your own! It's good for you. You will cut out preservatives, sodium, and sugar in vast quantities.
Buy organic! It's good for you and for the environment. Neither your body or the earth needs those pesticides.
Buy free-range! It's good for the chicken. 
No, buy pastured! It's better for you.
No, really you should buy pastured and organic, grain fed! It's better for the chicken and for you!

Just the other day I read this article about Whole Foods stores. In it, the author explains that while it is hard to find fault with the ideals of Whole Foods, it is all a matter of perspective. They offer organic choices, but at the cost of not offering local, small farm-grown choices. The question is, which is better? Do I need to worry more about my own immune system or our country's? Should I spend my money and my appetite on making sure the food and the farm workers aren't being exposed to dangerous chemicals? Should I worry more that the world is suffering from fossil fuels, and although the market has organic tomatoes, they traveled all the way from Ecuador? Should I worry that if South American farmers can undercut our farmers' prices, we will lose our farmland to condominium complexes? Should I worry that I am spending more on organic food, which means less money for other things like vacations? Do my kids need to see the world or eat better? 

These are just the types of questions I have found myself wondering all this past year. I don't have many answers yet, but I think I am on the right track. At any rate, I can say that the change in our eating lifestyle has been enormously positive in this past year. It is by no means perfect, but we are closing the gap a tiny bit.

1.  We eat far more fruits and vegetables. Whereas I used to buy a few veggies at the market each week, now we get a huge box of beautiful produce. Every week, I wonder what in heaven's name I am going to do with it all, and yet somehow we manage to get it out of the fridge and into our mouths.

2. We eat better fruits and vegetables. I see "local"defined differently in different places. Some say within 100 miles, others say within the state. My produce now all comes from a group of farms that is about 150 miles away from us. Whether it counts as local or not, it is certainly a far cry from the stuff we can get at the grocery store, which often comes from South America. Our produce is all grown organically, and it is all picked a mere two days before we receive it. That means that when I bite into an apple out of my box on Saturday morning, it was hanging on a tree on Thursday. You can't do much better than that unless you are the farmer.

3. We eat much much much more variety of fruits and vegetables. I have posted recipes involving 68 different fruits and vegetables. I know there are a few more I haven't written about as well. I never counted my fruits and veggies before this, but I would guess that I wasn't eating even half that. There are several that I had never eaten before this year (brussels sprouts, bok choy, collard greens, etc.) and quite a few that I had never even heard of (daikon radish, lamb's quarter, fava beans, etc.). One thing that I hear pretty consistently is that one of the best ways to make sure you are getting all the nutrients you need is to eat a variety of foods. I guess we have a ways to go, but we are getting much better!

4. Because we have to find ways to eat all of the vegetables in the box, that doesn't leave much room for eating other stuff... Our dinner plate is largely filled directly from the Abundant Harvest box. Last might, for example, we had broccoli-onion-carrot stir fry, cooked with garlic and plum sauce (made out of plums form the box). The only thing I had to buy was the rice and a little oil for the frying. By doing that for most of our meals, my grocery bill has gone down. And that's always a good thing.

5. Likewise, our consumption of processed foods has gone down. We cook so many more things from scratch now, that we aren't buying so many cans and boxes at the grocery store. That means less sodium, less sugar, less preservatives. One of the most memorable quotes, to me, from the movie "Food Inc" is 
"You know, I would venture to guess if you go and look on the supermarket shelf, I'll bet you 90% of
them would contain either a corn or soybean ingredient, and most of the time will contain both." What?? That means that no matter how many different boxes or bags or cans of food I buy, no matter what flavor or shape or consistency it is, it's really just corn and soy? I am sure glad I'm eating less of that stuff. Less of that means more real food.

6. It also doesn't leave much room for dining out. And that bill has gone WAY down. 

7. It has opened my eyes to being more selective about the other things we eat too. We now buy organic milk, organic eggs, and organic meats. They cost a lot more per pound, that's for sure. However, like I said before, we aren't buying as much milk or meat as we used to. I never tracked how much we spent on milk, eggs, and meat before, but I would venture to guess that we are pretty close to even. Perhaps even a little less.

8. I have gained much more confidence and interest in cooking. I am having a ton of fun investigating and researching recipes and trying new things. There are still flops, of course, but they are happening less and less often. My kids are getting more interested in trying to cook too.

9. Abundant Harvest Organics provides a way to eat both local and organic. Which is the benefit of almost any CSA. It gives the farmers a guaranteed income, it gives me a consistent price for fresh produce, and it all is grown without pesticide right here in my home state. I understand that, as far as fresh produce goes, I am very lucky to live in the state of California. A lot of what I ate this year was available to people across the country... but for me I could still count it as eating locally.

10.  I also supported small, independent farms. I am grateful to Vern Peterson for creating Abundant Harvest Organics. He is a farmer with an amazing brain for business. If it weren't for him, there might be a few more farmers who had to give up their farms. I don't think it's good for me, or good for America if we continue to lose options. If the small farms continue to get swallowed up, we will be left with no choice but the corn and soy products available in the supermarket. That's the bulk of what the huge corporate farms are growing. I'm glad Abundant Harvest exists, and I can only imagine the farmers are even more so.

One final note... The main reason I even realize this is our one-year box anniversary is that I will be leaving today for the Susan G. Komen three-day walk for a breast cancer cure. It was while I was gone on the walk last year that my husband and kids surpassed me by picking up our first box.

Wish me luck! If you want to wish me specific luck, wish for no blisters and no rain. I'll be walking 20 miles a day and sleeping in a tent for three days, and rain and blisters both tend to make that a less pleasant experience. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

watermelon radish

I'm coming up on a year of eating from the box, and I truly thought there would be no more surprises. We have been through all four seasons. What else could those farmers possibly pull out of their fields?  

The watermelon radish, it turns out.

It is named because of it's amazing coloring... greenish on the outside, and a beautiful red inside flesh.

This radish, although huge, is surprisingly sweet. Of course, it still tastes radish-y, but not as peppery as many other kinds. It is about the size of a softball, and with a very long set of greens, it is an imposing presence. Especially since it crashed the party.

How would you feel if you met this guy before your morning cup of coffee?
Not knowing what to do with this behemoth, I went a google-ing, and found a salad recipe at "Healthy, Happy, LIfe" I am not sure I am going to recommend you all go buy a watermelon radish just to try this, unless you happen to be a radish lover. I'm not even sure you could go buy a watermelon radish. Do they actually sell these? But, if you happen to get one in your own box of produce, this is a nice, fresh, sweet and tart salad that goes nicely with chicken, potatoes, beef, etc.

I have to admit that, since I am leaving for the weekend, I am in a bit of a rush to get all the veggies cooked and eaten early this week. I didn't experiment at all with this recipe, or change a thing.

Sweet Pickled Onion Watermelon Radish Salad

1 large watermelon radish, sliced into thin rounds
1 small white onion, sliced into thin rounds
1/3 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp pepper (fresh ground)
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
splash of rice wine vinegar (optional - adds an extra layer of tart-sweetness)

1. Slice your onion and radish. Place in a large mixing bowl.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the mixing bowl - toss well.
3. Place in fridge to chill overnight.
4. Serve! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

maple pear upside-down cake

I am still trying to eat my way through 15 heads of broccoli, and I will tell you all about that, I promise. I am also going to tell you about the amazing good times we are having here with watermelon radish, kabocha squash, and beets. But before we jump into all that healthy stuff, let's sneak in a little dessert, shall we? Since it makes me feel a wee bit guilty having dessert when there are still veggies on my plate, I'll even throw in a little public service announcement while we're at it.

This is a maple pear upside down cake. It is delicious, especially served warm with a little vanilla ice cream. I wish I could show you a picture of it divided and dolloped, but we took this to dinner at a friend's house. I wanted to take some pictures after we dished it up, but I didn't want everyone to be stuck, mouth watering, waiting for dessert while I clicked away with the camera. And by "everyone," I mean "me." I couldn't wait a second longer, even though it looked so beautiful it was a shame not to capture the melty ice cream on film. I guess I can't have my cake and eat it too.  heehee.

The combination of pear and maple in this cake make it ideal for fall. I think it would be a fantastic addition to any thanksgiving meal, except where I am going for thanksgiving (the guests are looking for nothing but pie). Plus, the ring of pear slices looks fancy enough to impress your friends or family.

This cake is pretty simple to put together. You simmer some maple syrup, brown sugar, and butter together, place some pear slices on top and cover it with a pretty typical cake batter. After it is done baking and inverted onto a plate, the syrup sinks down into the cake, giving it a delicious flavor and consistency.

But here is where the public service announcement comes in: Do not, under any circumstances, burn your house down while making this cake. Don't even fill it with billowing black smoke. It's just not good.

You see, the cake you are looking at here is the second pear cake I made Saturday morning. The first ended up, half baked, in the backyard getting rained on.

I guess the real lesson is that you shouldn't use a springform pan. I know that springform pans are convenient and I know they make me feel much more confident that the cake will pop out easily and in one piece. However, I also know that springform pans leak. I am not sure why this little tidbit didn't occur to me Saturday morning, but there I was with maple syrup/butter mixture dripping out of my cake, puddling in the bottom of the oven, and creating tons of thick smoke in my kitchen. And family room. And living room, entryway, bathroom, office, staircase....

Summoning my bravery (and a big gulp of air), I headed right into the source of the smoke, pulled the half-done cake out of the oven and handed it to my husband, relay-race style, who ran it outside while I rubbed smoky eyes and ran around opening windows and positioning fans.

Even though the friends we were going to have dinner with are the type of people that I could show up with a bag of Oreos and they wouldn't mind in the slightest (and believe me, I was tempted), I wasn't going to quit while I was behind. Dang it, I was determined to make that cake. So I sighed, grabbed a regular cake pan, and began again. 

And you know what? With all the butter in this cake, especially the topping, there is no need to even grease the cake pan, and it all comes out quite nicely.

So take the straightforward route, skip the springform pan, and enjoy this heavenly fall treat.

Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake
This recipe is from Mark Bittman in the New York Times. I think Mark might become my favorite new recipe source. He uses great fresh ingredients in simple, no-fuss, delicious combinations.

8 tablespoons + 3 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3-4 pears, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt three tablespoons butter in a small pan over medium heat; add maple syrup and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook for another 2 minutes; remove from heat and set aside. When mixture has cooled a bit, pour it into a 9-inch baking pan and arrange pear slices in an overlapping circle on top.

2. With a handheld or standing mixer, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, one egg at a time, continuing to mix until smooth. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt, and flour.

3. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with milk; do not overmix. Carefully spread batter over pears, using spatula to make sure it is evenly distributed. Bake until top of cake is golden brown and edges begin to pull away from sides of pan, about 45-50 minutes; a toothpick inserted into center should come out clean. Let cake cool for 5 minutes.

4. Run a knife around the edges of the cake. Place a plate on top, and carefully invert the cake onto the plate. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

crispy daikon radish cakes

I am beside myself with excitement over broccoli. 

Okay, maybe that came out a little too strongly. I am having a decent time fixing broccoli this week for my family. Which is good, considering the 16 heads of broccoli I got in the last two installments of my Abundant Harvest Organics box.

However, before I can tell you about all the amazing broccoli feats that are happening with lightning speed around here, I feel it is my duty to discuss other things first.

So sorry to get your hopes up and then dash them like that. I know you may not sleep well until the broccoli news hits the stands, but just think of how this delayed gratification is making you a stronger person.

Before I can move forward with anything else, really, I feel I have an obligation to discuss the daikon radish.

The who?

The Daikon Radish.

It came in my box this week.

You don't need to peel these. You can sort of see here how the
 little hairs all grow in a line down the radish? I just scrubbed well,
scraped off that one line on either side, and left the rest intact.

These three daikon radishes are each about 18 inches long. The sizeof them sort of shocked me. I thought they seemed awfully tiny. You see last year, about our second week into subscribing to Abundant Harvest (but before I thought to regale you with my tales of vegetable heroism), we received the first daikon radish of my life. And it terrified me. I had never seen or heard of daikon radish before that guy landed in my kitchen. And, measuring approximately thirty inches long and about 8 inches around, he was about as big as my arm. There is a daikon recipe in this post, I swear. I am eventually going to get around to sharing it with you, really. But to first give you perspective, the three daikon radishes above make one batch. That giant I had last year? He himself made three batches of crispy daikon cakes. No lie.

I wonder what is more typical. I only have had two polar-opposite experiences with daikon radishes, and I can't begin to imagine what an average daikon looks like. It's like putting my five year-old and Shaquille O'Neal next to each other and saying "These are males."

Anyway, all of this is to tell you that when I saw these junior daikon, I wasn't even fazed. I know just what to do with them, and they seemed so small as to be laughable.

However, over the course of the past year, I seem to have talked 5 or 6 of my friends into subscribing to Abundant Harvest (hi guys!). I am really not a salesperson. The way I talked them into it is through such luring statements as "Dammit. I have to go pick up my veggies tomorrow morning and I am not even halfway done with the last box. And I still have potatoes form weeks and weeks ago. And I just don't feel like dealing with it all!"

Somehow that got them to want to jump on the bandwagon. 

But, I remember clearly my first daikon of last year, and I remember that feeling of bewilderment and befuddlement.  And since I know that a lot of my friends have a daikon radish languishing in the fridge, I can't in good faith wait another day to help them out with a little suggestion of what to do.

And so, my fellow box getters, and all of you out there in the world who want to try out a daikon radish, I have for you this very yummy recipe. These little cakes are similar to a latke, but made with radish instead of potato, and with a little more Asia and a little less Israel. The radish flavor, although there, isn't nearly as strong as your average little red radish. They are divine dipped in a bit of soy sauce, and if you plan to make them, please invite me over!

Crispy Daikon Radish Cakes
I got this recipe from the gal who distributes my box for me each week. I have no idea where she got it, sorry!

Enough daikon radish to make 3 packed cups when grated (about three of these sized daikons)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 green onions, minced
1 egg
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
About 1/2 cup panco bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

Run the daikon through a food processor, or grate by hand. Put it all in a colander with the salt, mix well, and let it sit for 30 minutes (no longer -- it will become something like sauerkraut).

Squeeze the water out of the daikon with your hands.  You want the daikon really dry.

While the daikon is draining, in a large bowl, beat the egg, and stir in the green onion, flour, sesame oil and pepper. Stir the squeezed daikon.

Form cakes, about 1/3 cup of this mixture each,  that are about 1/2 inch thick.  You will make about 8-10 cakes.

Scatter some panko on a plate and bread the top and bottom of each cake with a layer of panko.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil (I use a combination of olive oil and a little more sesame oil) in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.

Pan fry the cakes until the bottoms are golden brown.

Flip the  cakes over and add a little more oil and continue to pan fry until golden brown.

Serve with soy sauce.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veggie and Sausage Roast

This meal was actually billed as "Lazy Sunday Casserole." Well, as a rule I don't do casseroles. I make exceptions from time to time, of course. Like when my husband mentions two or a hundred times that he would just die for some Green Bean Casserole. Or once in a  great while when I'm going out and I feel guilty about giving the kids a frozen pizza, I might make a casserole I remember from my childhood. 

But typically? This is a no-casserole zone. Purposely.

However, if you look at this beautiful dish, you will have to agree that this simply got misnamed. I mean no offense to Kay at Kayotic Kitchen which is where I got the recipe. I love this dish, I do. Which is exactly why it can't possibly be a casserole.

Anyway, the lazy part of the name, on the other hand, is correct. There is little to do except allow for plenty of time resting while the oven does the work, and some time chopping beforehand. 

The great thing about this casserole is that is calls for exactly what you happen to have on hand.  Really. The vegetables are completely interchangeable. I would be sure to always include the sausage, as well as carrots and potatoes the way Kay suggests, but beyond that... you choose!

I happened to have celery and onions on hand in addition to the carrots and potatoes, so that is what went into mine. Kay had a fennel bulb and bell pepper. I could also see using parsnips, turnips, corn, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower... I could go on forever. Use what you have. Or buy what looks good. It's completely up to you!

At any rate, here is how it all comes together:

4 Italian sausages
1 pound potatoes, cut into wedges
3-4 carrots, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
3-4 stalks of celery, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons oil
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian herbs
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 450.

Wash and cut the vegetables. Place them all in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the garlic, oil,  salt, pepper, herbs, and broth. Pour it all over the vegetables and toss. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes, until the veggies are just becoming tender.

Cut the sausages in half. Add them to the baking pan, and put it all back in the oven (uncovered) for about 30 more minutes, turning the sausages over about halfway through. When the sausages are cooked through, take it out and enjoy a very easy meal!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

soft pumpkin cookies

This pumpkin recipe is one of the standing traditions around here. As I was making the pumpkin puree last week, I knew that some of it would be finding it's way into these cookies. These end up on our table at least a couple of times every fall.

My husband had this recipe when I met him... his mother used to make them for him. I know it can be treading in some dangerous waters to try and make something for a man that his mama used to make,  but these are pretty fool-proof. I've never had them come out anything less than perfect! He's not the complaining type in general, but he's never mentioned that his mother could have done better.

I have done them with canned puree and with my own, and either way they come out lovely. They are light, almost cake-like, soft, and not too sweet. The spices are similar to pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread, so they immediately feel like an old favorite, from the first time you try them.

Pumpkin Cookies
(makes 4-5 dozen small cookies)

3/4 cup butter at room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the eggs. Mix in the pumpkin puree. 

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Stir into the pumpkin mixture and mix well.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. (the dough is a little wetter than most cookie doughs, don't fret.) Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the bottoms are starting to brown.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

pumpkin-cream cheese wontons

Last month I participated in the Improv Cooking Challenge that had been started by the Lady Behind the Curtain. The challenge was to come up with a recipe that used apples and caramel, and I made a Dorset Apple Cake.

This month, the two ingredients assigned were pumpkin and cream cheese. As luck would have it, I had just received a pumpkin from the mother of one of the preschool kids where I work. Not that I was going to mention it to the others in the challenge, but I was planning to make some yummy pumpkin things anyway!

Well, I thought I would get ahead of the game, and I decided to make these pumpkin-cream cheese wontons. (I found the recipe here, but as usual I didn't follow directions very well.) I pureed the pumpkin, went to an Asian market for the wonton wrappers, and assembled the rest of the ingredients. I mixed and dolloped and folded and baked, and I sampled and refolded and photographed and ate and ate and ate.

And just when I uploaded the pictures and thought about how to write about the cute little guys, I got an email from the Lady Behind the Curtain. Sadly, for reasons she didn't go into, she is unable to continue hosting the challenge. 

Really? The exact morning that I was about to write my blog post? The challenge is cancelled?

So sad.

Fear not. All is not lost. I got these wontons out of the process. And now you can too!

Pumpkin Cream Cheese wontons
I used the pumpkin puree that I told you about yesterday, but you can buy a can of it if you prefer. It would make these guys super duper easy to throw together.

1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
2 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
18 wonton wrappers (these can be easily found in almost any Asian grocery store, and even the frozen aisle of most general supermarkets)
a bit more cinnamon for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 400.

Now, mix up everything except the wonton wrappers. It's just that easy. 

Lay out a wonton wrapper and place a dollop of about 1-2 teaspoons of the pumpkin-cream cheese mixture in the center.

Using your fingers, wet two sides of the wrapper with water. Fold it in half diagonally (to form a triangle) and press the two sides of the wrapper together.

You can leave it in this triangle shape, or you can make it shaped like a traditional wonton by bringing the two corners at the base of the triangle together, wetting the corners, and overlapping to form a circle of sorts. A bandana headband? A little sailboat? This guy's hat?

They should look like this:

Anyway, after you have filled and folded, you can bake them.

Lay them on a baking sheet and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Turn them over and bake another couple of minutes, so both sides can get nicely toasted.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

pumpkin puree

Pumpkin puree is the stuff you get out of a can. But guess what? Before it was in a can, it was a pumpkin! A real, live round, orange pumpkin.

It is so easy to take a pumpkin (or a couple, if you plan to do a lot of pumpkin-based cooking) and turn them into puree that can be used in any recipe asks for canned pumpkin. Buy a couple of the smaller, orange pumpkins next time they are on sale. They keep very well, so you won't even have to use them up immediately.

I actually got mine from a mom at the preschool where I work. She brought one in for each of the staff members from her garden. How sweet is that? I'll be bringing her some pumpkin cookies made with her terrific pumpkin this week.

Once you are ready to try out some baking, you will be amazed at how simple it is to turn a pumpkin into pumpkin puree. First, you need to cut it into some big chunks. Just cut it in half, and then cut each half into 3 or four wedges. Then, scrape out the seeds and stringy pulp.

Now, just set the chunks of pumpkin down on a baking sheet and bake them! They need to roast for about 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. That's it! Just stick them in the hot oven, wait an hour, and get them back out. You will know they are done when a fork can easily pierce them.

Next, scrape all of the pumpkin flesh out of the peel pieces. It should come apart fairly easily. Stick the chunks into a food processor, and well, puree.

If it feels too dry, add water a tablespoon at a time. If it feels too wet, let it drain a bit from a mesh sieve. My pumpkin ended up taking about 4 tablespoons of water altogether.

Other than that, don't do a thing! Jut get it into a nice gooey pureed form, and then let your imagination run wild. I'll give you some of the ways I used it later this week. Keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.

Just for your reference, a can of pumpkin equals 1 3/4 cups of pumpkin puree. So if a recipe calls for one can, you can easily measure it. My medium pumpkin came out to just about 4 cups.

Monday, November 7, 2011

zucchini-apple bread

oh my. November?


I am not sure I was actually here for the month of October, because I don't really remember it.

I have been busy busy busy. There were Halloween Parties for all three kids in their classrooms, which meant some baking, shopping, prepping, and playing.

There were three Halloween costumes to create.

There was a school carnival (for which I somehow got in charge of two booths), testing for the next belt level in kung fu for two kids, and oral surgery for one.

There were Halloween parties to attend, to drop off and pick up from, and to help out at, and of course there was trick-or-treating.

There were many many fundraisers for Breast Cancer awareness month. I am leaving in just two weeks (egad!) for San Diego, where I will be walking 60 miles with seven of my very best friends in the whole wide world. It's no coincidence that they make up more than 50% of my blog readership. Without these people I would truly be lost. One of them is Jason of The Jason Show. If you didn't come to my blog from him, you should head over to him. He can tell you more about my besties in his post after the 3-day walk last year, and you can read about some of our fundraisers in his post from last week. So there, my alibi for why I haven't been blogging has a witness.

The one that was probably the most fun was the Goodwill Truck... Goodwill paid us to collect junk previously loved objects from our friends and fill up a truck with them. For a few weeks, we sought and received lovely items from just about everyone we know, and then for one long day we made trips back and forth, emptying our garages and filling up that truck. Doesn't that sound like a good time? Okay, you would have to know my friends to understand why a day of driving, loading, carrying and hauling other people's crap is fun. They are the funniest, warmest, kindest, happiest people I know. Spending a day shoveling dog poop would be okay by me if I was with my team.

One of our other fundraisers was a bake sale. We have a local pumpkin patch/farm that is the coolest place around at Halloween time. For a city girl who grew up getting a pumpkin from the local grocery store, Lombardi Ranch feels like a wonderland to me. The kids get to wander through acres of pumpkins of all different shapes, sizes and colors, to find just the right one. They get to climb on antique farm equipment, scale towers of hay bales, visit the animals, take a wagon ride, make their way through a corn maze, and check out Scarecrow Alley. It's no wonder that just about every child in our city makes his or her way to Lombardi Ranch at least once during the month of October.

Lucky for us, the owners of the joint set up a booth and allow one charitable group per day to host a bake sale, and to keep all of the profit. Since we were lucky enough to sign up for the last Friday before Halloween, we had a busy day and sold over $700 of cookies, brownies, cupcakes and breads. Going for $1 apiece most often, that translates into lots of baking beforehand!

I spent the last two days before the sale baking:
10 loaves of zucchini apple bread
3 dozen mummy pops
2 dozen brownies
2 dozen cupcakes
7 dozen cookies

It was exhausting! But my house sure smelled good!

Here are the mummy pops I made:

Aren't they cute? Hop over here to my very cute baking friend for the details on these guys. She is amazing! She actually let me invade her kitchen for the morning, gave me a private tutorial, and didn't laugh at all my mistakes. A good friend, indeed! While you're there, check out everything Kirsten does... she's ten times the baker that I am.

And here is the zucchini-apple bread.

 It is not as cute, but it is very delicious. The apples and the applesauce give it a nice density and make sure it isn't too dry. It actually lasts a few days, because all the zucchini and apples help it not get stale the by the morning after you bake it.

Zucchini Apple Bread          
I got this recipe here, before I changed bits and pieces of it.
(this makes two loaves... but it doubles and even triples easily!)

The zucchini and apple can be grated in a food processor. You don't even need to peel the apple!

butter (for the pans)
1 cup grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
1 cup grated apple (about 1 apple, cored)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 cup apple sauce (I used my own, but a jar of apple sauce form the store works just as well)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 2 standard loaf pans (or more smaller loaf pans) with butter.

Combine the zucchini, apple, brown sugar, apple sauce, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg and mix well.

Divide the batter between the loaf pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean... about 50 minutes for a standard loaf pan, about 40-45 minutes for a smaller loaf.

Remove the breads from the loaf pans and let them cool on a wire rack.