Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Best Part of My Thanksgiving Meal

Bread Stuffing with Wild Rice

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and if you're anything like me, you've been thinking about what your menu will look like this year. While I make one or two changes every year, this stuffing is one thing that has been a mainstay on the menu for as long as I can remember. To be honest, it's so popular among my family and friends that I break it out on a quite a few occasions outside of Thanksgiving (shameful only because it is ridiculously decadent and unhealthy). One of my preschool teachers even requested it for her birthday treat this year! (That would be Ms. Nicole, who has also requested soft pretzels. She comes up with the best birthday treat requests.)

It's a pretty simple recipe - soft bread, celery and onions, seasonings, wild rice, and lots of butter - that originated with Betty Crocker, and was tweaked to its current blissful perfection by my mom, who's been making it for years. Because we have vegetarians in my family, we've never treated this recipe as literal "stuffing" and put it inside of a turkey - more of a side dish so that everyone can enjoy it. The recipe I've posted here reflects that, but if you want to use it the traditional way it's easily done.

I have Chinook Books (formerly Blue Sky Guides) to give away again this year! It's full of Minnesota-based coupons for local eco-friendly restaurants, entertainment venues, and other fun stuff. If you're one of my Minnesota readers and are interested in winning a copy, leave me a note in the comment section or send me an email. Tell me what your favorite Thanksgiving dish is - I want to know! I'll choose a winner on Saturday, November 20, so be sure to comment or email before then.

Looking for more Thanksgiving-friendly recipes? Try this Streuseled Sweet Potato Casserole or these Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Hearty, Healthy Fall Stew

Moroccan Chickpea and Spinach Stew

This lovely stew has been a staple recipe for both my sister and I over the last month or so. We originally made it because of its nutritional value (and because we were slowly but surely working our way through my copious amounts of CSA tomatoes), but it has stayed in our recipe rotation since then because it really tastes fantastic. It's packed full of chickpeas, which makes it quite filling and protein-rich. The recipe calls for slightly mashing some of the chickpeas, which adds a nice, thick texture, but isn't a necessary step if you don't want to bother. Tomatoes and baby spinach get plenty of vegetables in every bowl - and, coincidentally, you can make this work year-round even if you try to buy fresh produce only in season: canned tomatoes can be substituted for fresh, and just about any leafy green could work in place of spinach (think chard, kale, etc.). What really makes this soup special and crave-worthy, though, is the heady flavor created by the Moroccan-influenced spices. Cumin, paprika, a pinch of cayenne, and...the rock star of this stew, in my opinion: cinnamon. Yes, cinnamon. Trust me, it's delicious.

On another note: if any of my blog readers are members of St. Paul's Mississippi Market Co-op, please consider voting for me! I am running for their Board of Directors, and the election runs until October 20. If you read my blog, you already know how passionate I am about healthy, whole foods, so I'll spare you my spiel...but I would appreciate your vote. Thank you!

Looking for other hearty soups and stews? Try Oven Beef Stew or White Chicken Chili.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Brownie That Covers All the Bases

Fudgy, Chewy, Cakey Brownies

Sometimes you just want a plain, old-fashioned frills, no fuss - just pure chocolate bliss. If you're in that kind of a mood, read on, because I have just the thing for you. The recipe title says it all here: these brownies somehow manage to be fudgy, cakey, and chewy - all at the same time! Amazing, no? Something for everyone! I tend to like my brownies a little more on the chewy-cakey side, and less fudgy; Dariush likes his a little more fudgy and less cakey. Incredibly, these brownies lived up to their name and made us both happy. This is a Pam Anderson recipe (no, not that Pam Anderson) from her cookbook The Perfect Recipe, which is full of wonderful staple recipes, like these brownies and some pretty great pancakes. She's the executive editor of the illustrious Cook's Illustrated, so she really knows her stuff - these brownies included.

Happy fall, Cathedral Hill readers!

In other fabulous basic recipes: Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Basic Marinara Sauce.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A Standing Ovation for Summer

Farmer's Market Pesto Pasta

Hello, dear readers! I'm jumping back into blogging while there's still time to celebrate the best time of the year for fresh fruits and vegetables in Minnesota: both the farmer's market and my CSA box are still brimming with the bright colors and heady scents of sun-ripened vegetables that signify summer is taking its final bow until next year. What a glorious summer for eating and cooking it has been!

This pasta creation has been one of the best things I've come up with this's been a great way to use up all the vegetable odds and ends I seem to find when I get to the bottom of our CSA box each week. The basics are pasta (whole wheat at our house - yes, we've officially made the switch) and fragrant, bright green pesto (I've been enjoying pistachio nuts instead of pine nuts in my pesto this summer, in order to stay away from the odd pine mouth phenomenon)...followed by pretty much anything that strikes my fancy and/or I need to make use of. The photo above has been my favorite combination: roasted corn, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. It's a sweet-slightly smoky-slightly salty combination that epitomizes summer in a single, perfect bite. Don't have these ingredients on hand? The options are really only as limited as your imagination: broccoli, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, olives, peas, zucchini, spinach, arugula, shrimp, feta, chicken...whatever you want to include in your standing ovation for summer.

In other final days of summer cooking: Creamy Corn with Chives and Zucchini Spice Cake.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Embracing Brussels Sprouts

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

Have you ever tried these little green orbs of deliciousness? I'd only had Brussels sprouts shaved in quiches and such until I tried this recipe - never on their own. I admit I was fairly apprehensive about giving them a shot - they have quite a reputation for being the stuff of children's dinner table nightmares. But, I've been on a mission this winter to add some new seasonal vegetables to my cooking repertoire, so I dutifully searched for a recipe that looked appealing and trudged to to the store to pick up a bag.

I suppose you can guess from my reference to "orbs of deliciousness" that I am now an official Brussels sprouts convert. But not just any Brussels sprouts, my friends: these Brussels sprouts - courtesy of Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks. These sprouts are halved, tossed with a bit of olive oil, then cooked in a skillet until the insides turn a deep caramel brown. Heidi tosses hers with a bit of grated cheese - which is very good - but at our house, we love them splashed with balsamic vinegar (really, we love almost anything splashed with balsamic vinegar, but I digress). They are amazing enough that I have, on several occasions, cooked a pan of them and eaten them as a snack. If you already love Brussels sprouts, I think this might be your new favorite recipe. If you don't like them, I think there's a good chance these will convert you. And if you're like me and you hadn't really tried them before, you'll be glad you did.

How about another giveaway while we're here? I started graduate school this fall, and it's keeping me pretty busy. During the week, we've been relying heavily on the quickest, easiest things we can throw together. I have an extra copy of Cooking Light's Fresh Food Fast, which contains all 5-ingredient-or-less, 15-minute recipes - or "grad school cooking", as I like to call it these days. Say hello in the comment section or send me an email, and I'll choose someone at random to ship this lovely book off to. If you'd like to mention what some of your favorite quick weeknight meals are, I'd love to add some more to my list! I'll choose the recipient on Saturday, February 20, so make sure to respond before then.

Interested in more winter vegetables? Try Sautéed Kale or Broccoli with Red Pepper Flakes and Toasted Garlic.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Making Friends with Veggie Burgers

Red Lentil Chickpea Burgers with Peanut Sauce

We try to follow a relatively flexitarian diet in our house - meaning we don't eat meat with every - even most - meals. It's a choice we've made for financial, environmental, and ethical reasons...and having several vegetarians in our lives that often eat meals with us hasn't hurt, either. The biggest reason we often eat meatless meals, though, is simply because there are so many delicious vegetarian recipes that have become our favorites. The veggie burger - that quintessential veg-friendly offering at many bars and burger joints - has not generally been one of my favorite entrees. Although the concept is great, I rarely meet a veggie burger that I like: they are too often tasteless, dry, and crumbly. Determined to find something palatable, I've been experimenting with recipes at home...and after running the gamut of veggie burger options, I've finally found one that I'm excited about:

And here it is. The base of these burgers is a combination of red lentils (which are wonderful all on their own) and chickpeas, which add extra substance and bulk. Add a few spices, vegetables, and some bread crumbs to hold everything together, and you've got yourself one decent veggie burger. Notice I said decent. These burgers aren't bad on their own, but what really makes them something special is the tangy, slightly spicy peanut sauce that accompanies them. A basic Asian-inspired peanut sauce, it's whipped up in a blender and ready to go in less than a minute - and we wouldn't love these burgers so much without it.

While the sauce is quick to put together, the burgers themselves are a little tedious - particularly because they have to chill before they are cooked. Luckily, they keep (and freeze) well, so the easiest way to enjoy these is to make a big batch when you've got some time, form them into patties, and keep them in the freezer the same way you would those pre-packaged Boca burgers - just take out a couple at a time when you're ready to cook them. We usually eat ours over brown rice, but they're great wrapped in pitas, too. They're healthy, filling, and tasty, but the best part? I can finally call the veggie burger my friend - my work on this front is complete.

Want more veg-friendly fare? Try a Rice Omelette or Chipotle Macaroni and Cheese.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Finishing the Year with a Familiar Favorite

Rice Krispie Bars

Everyone loves Rice Krispie bars, right? And most everyone has a unique way that they prefer them...with chocolate chips, with peanut butter, with frosting on top...I even know someone who prefers the packaged Rice Krispie Treats you can buy at the store to homemade ones (which I don't quite understand, but to each their own). Personally, I like them best pure and unadulterated - and if we're getting really picky, I like to call them "bars" and not "treats". I make them the way my mom made them when I was little: with considerably more butter, marshmallows, and Rice Krispies per pan than the recipe printed on the back of the cereal box calls for. The result is (I think) more chewy and satisfying than the standard Rice Krispie bar, and it's a dessert that pleases friends and families just as much as some of the fancier desserts I make. If I'm making them for my sister or other vegetarians in my life, I'm careful to use marshmallows that are free of animal byproducts - I find them at my local co-op.

I won't go into another long soliloquy about why I've been away from my blog for so long - my first semester of graduate school has definitely taken its toll on other areas of my life. Know that you have been missed, blog readers, and I'm excited to make blogging a more regular priority in 2010. Happy (almost) New Year!

Searching for other easy dessert recipes? Try a Chocolate Deli Cake or Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies.