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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cooking with the kids

One morning I sensed Isaac needed some attention...and sat down with him and asked him if he would like to be in charge of dinner that night. I asked him what he'd like to make, and said I would buy the ingredients while he was at school, and we would work on it when he got home. I had to laugh because he chose something so basic, but it was so much fun! Sometimes easy can be a blast, and this definitely was. We had bean and cheese nachos, guacamole, salsa, and banana splits for dessert.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Caramel Corn

I just love talking to my kids about the "love your neighbors as yourself" scripture, and even more than that, finding ways to put it into action. We have fantastic neighbors, and I am blessed to get along with all of them. I think it's great to live in a place where we know them, trust them, and not only are happy to help them, but love to do unexpected things for them too.

In the Fall, and for Christmas we love to make little things to leave at their doors. This Fall we bought bags that had big pumpkin faces on them, and filled them with caramel corn. It's a super easy recipe that uses only the microwave (and an air popper if you make your popcorn that way, like we do). Make sure and adjust it for your microwave; some of the newer ones cook really fast. Kid friendly! Let them help! :)

Caramel Corn

4 Quarts popped corn
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup dark Karo
1 stick butter
Dash of salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 large grocery size brown paper bag

Mix all ingredients EXCEPT soda. Microwave for two minutes. Stir. Microwave 2 minutes more. Add soda. Stir well. Will foam. Put popcorn in a brown paper sack and pour caramel mix evenly over corn. Shake. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes (*note* my microwave takes 1 minute, just depends if yours is older or newer). Shake. Microwave 1 1/2 minutes (or 1 minute) more. Shake and pour out on a cookie sheet to cool. Enjoy!

The Clay-Pot experience

I happened upon a clay pot at the Goodwill last year, and after having been introduced to it at a friends house shortly before, I knew I had to buy it. Thankfully it came with a cookbook, and as the weather has been steadily cooling, I have been having so much fun making some of the recipes out of it. Since I have three boys in the house, I do have to make sure I'm getting them enough protein. Once in awhile, they do love to eat meat. This clay pot is as handsoff as a crockpot, but just a bit different in how it cooks. I have loved most of the recipes out of "The Clay-pot Cookbook" except for any that have sour cream or dairy in them - those I thought were not great. So far we've made Orange Chicken, Chicken with Spices and Brandy, Swiss Chicken with Mushrooms, Curried Chicken with Guinness, and the classic French dish Beef Bourguignonne(see first picture).

With a clay pot, you soak the pot for 15 minutes in water before adding the ingredients, put it in a COLD oven, and then turn it up really high (480-490 degrees) and it generally cooks about an hour and half. With most of the recipes you remove the liquid from the clay pot, and cook it on the stove with some arrowroot powder wisked into it(doesn't cloud a sauce like cornstarch) and then you have a gravy/sauce to go with your dish. Sometimes you leave the top off and cook it for another 10 minutes or so, to brown the top.
I haven't really run into anyone outside of my friend who actually has a clay pot, so I'm not sure how many recipes I'll post on here. I was never going to buy one full price because I thought having a slow cooker and a clay pot would be the same thing. It's not! They amazing savory, melt in your mouth taste that comes from dishes in this pot can't be reproduced in a slow cooker. I'm really happy to have both, and now can't imagine not having the clay pot.
An example of an easy meal you can throw in there without a recipe is in the third picture above. It was in the intro of the book, where the author writes about her first night with her clay pot. I threw in everything she wrote about except the cheese, and it was wonderful!

"That night I cooked my first chicken, laboring over the beast like some sweaty midwife, massagin her with salt and pepper, painting her with a brillant mixture of paprika, oil, crushed garlic, and minced fresh rosemary. I added little white onions, chopped parsley, tiny new potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, grated Monterey Jack and white wine. Popping the water-soaked pot into a cold oven, I turned the thermostat to 480 degrees - and waited..

Soon the most delectable odor filled the was a smash. The bird had a plump, running-over succulence, the skin was golden brown, and the carrots could have doubled as dessert. Even the mundane little new potatoes took on an exotic cast. But it was the sauce that did it. The juices that came pouring out of that pot - an intoxicating fusion of bird, wine, herbs, and roots - was something....."

I had the same experience! What a happy discovery. If anyone has one, or wants some recipes, let me know, and I'll start posting them as I make them.
Happy fall cooking!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sauteed Swiss Chard

I think it's hard to get little ones into dark leafy greens. Even most adults don't eat them a few times a week like they are supposed to. I think the big question is, how can you prepare them so they taste good? We get some through juicing, but I want my kids to actually KNOW that they are getting them, and not just stick them hidden in things. That's why I love recipes like the previous kale soup I posted, and this one I made tonight. It's from the wonderful Edible Front Range magazine. I highly encourage you to check out Edible Communities and see if there is one for your area. It's packed full of news about farmers, chefs, and how people in your community are eating more local and seasonal, and local events. And of course, there are wonderful recipes, like this one that got 2 thumbs up from all three of my kiddos.

Sauteed Swiss Chard
by Sue Hollingshead

1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
2 bunches Swiss Chard, rinsed, tough stems removed, thinly sliced
1 cup raisins, softened in water about one hour, then drained
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (if cost makes getting these difficult, substitute toasted sunflower seeds)
balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, stirring, until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add Swiss Chard and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until tender to your liking.

Stir in raisins and pine nuts. Season with balsamic vinegar and sea salt.
Makes about 4 servings.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Kale and White Bean Soup

I have cooked many a Kale and White Bean Stew in my day....ever since I discovered how yummy Kale can be, I should add. I haven't always been a fan. I think it happened about 4 years ago, when I started adding it to juice, and then started sauteing it. Now this soup is one of the few will eat it (not just drink it).

My favorite recipe to date has been one that I have for my crockpot, just because I love an easy that cooks itself, you know? But this is definitely my new favorite. It is SO hearty. Even my boys, who easily eat "thirds" at dinner these days, are filled up by one bowl of this soup.

Something about the buttery shallots, and the Sherry Wine Vinegar that you stir in at the end, set this recipe apart from the others. I used curly Kale, and next time will use less, as the amount they say kind of takes over the soup in my opinion. Because of this I needed to double the broth, and it definitely needed the salt and pepper to finish it off. I highly recommend this soup on one of these beautiful crisp fall days! We served it with a warmed whole wheat baguette, and assorted cheeses.

Kale and White Bean Soup
Yield: makes 6 servings ( doubled this, and it fed us for 3 nights)

1 1/2 pounds kale leaves, center ribs and stems removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
2 15-ounce cans white beans (preferably organic), drained
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon Sherry wine vinegar
2 tablespoons assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as tarragon, parsley, and chives)

Cook kale in large pot of boiling salted water 1 minute. Drain. Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Squeeze out excess water. Coarsely chop kale.
Heat olive oil in medium pot over medium heat. Add chopped carrots, celery, shallots, and garlic; cook until soft, stirring, about 15 minutes (do not brown vegetables). Add white wine and simmer until liquid is slightly reduced, about 7 minutes. Add white beans, 4 cups broth, thyme sprigs, and bay leaf and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 20 minutes. Add kale and simmer 5 minutes longer. Remove thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Add more broth by 1/2 cupfuls to thin stew, if desired. Mix in Sherry wine vinegar and chopped fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions

I have never made Succotash before :). Actually I don't think I was ever exactly sure WHAT succotash was. Now I know it's a yummy, fresh tasting side dish. It's great for when there is fresh sweet corn and tomatoes on hand. Elijah and I liked this a lot, the two littliest ones weren't as crazy about it. Although, they did get the giggles when I taught them how to say "Suffering Succotash!"

Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions

yield: Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn (preferably 2 ears of white corn and 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans (from about 2 pounds pods) or 10 to 11 ounces frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt. Sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Rewarm before continuing.
Stir in basil and serve.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fish Fillets with Olives and Oregano

I made this over the weekend. The kids loved it! They ate all of it up. I used fresh halibut (which I realized cost the same as the frozen, even though the fresh is overnighted from CA. great deal!).

Fish Fillets with Olives and Oregano
yield: Makes 4 main-course servings
active time: 15 min
total time: 30 min

4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) pieces white-fleshed skinless fish fillets, such as halibut (6 oz each)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 very thin lemon slices
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup pitted brine-cured green olives such as picholine, halved lengthwise (2 oz)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled


Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.
Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sear fillets, skinned sides down, until browned well, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer, seared sides up, to baking dish (reserve skillet), then top each fillet with a slice of lemon.
Add wine to skillet and bring to a boil, scraping up any brown bits. Boil 30 seconds, then pour around fish. Scatter olives around fish and bake, uncovered, until fish is just cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes.
Transfer fish to a platter, then whisk lemon juice, oregano, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil into cooking liquid in baking dish. Season sauce with salt and pepper and spoon over fish.