Friday, December 31, 2010

Honey Almond Latte

Nearly every morning I don't have to work or rush out the door for something else, I make myself a latte. I love gourmet coffee drinks, but can't justify spending four or five dollars a pop on a regular basis (not to say that I don't indulge at local coffee shops from time to time). I don't have any illusions that my $30 Mr. Coffee espresso maker makes as good espresso as a professional machine that cost thousands of dollars, but it does the job for my weekend lattes.

There are a lot of different varieties of honey available, ranging from light, floral honeys like the common clover honey to the dark, intensely flavored buckwheat honey, so choose an amount of honey based on the character of the honey you have and how sweet you like your latte. I don't like things terribly sweet, so you my want to add even more honey than I list in this recipe. To amplify the almond flavor, use almond milk in place of dairy or soy milk. This is a subtly flavored latte, with just a bit of extra sweetness and flavor from a plain latte, so if you're looking for a super-sweet dessert like drink, this isn't for you, but perfect if you just want a little something extra in your morning pick-me-up.
Honey Almond Latte
serves 1

2-4 t. honey
1/4 t. pure almond extract
2 shots hot espresso
8 oz. warm, frothed milk (dairy, soy, or almond)

1. Add honey and almond extract to a mug and stir to combine. Pour in the hot espresso, stirring rapidly to dissolve the honey. Add the milk and stir, then top with a bit of milk froth. Serve hot and enjoy a few minutes to yourself.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Couscous

These days I'm usually searching for recipes based on the vegetables I have around to use up. I have pretty well-stocked cupboards so I usually don't have to buy much when I find a recipe I want to make (other than things like some fresh herbs), but I'm still delighted when I come across a recipe that looks delicious and uses up a lot of ingredients I already have on hand. Even though I'm constantly telling myself I need to use up what's already in the cabinets, I always ending finding at least an item or two I just can't live without on a grocery shopping trip, be it because there's a good sale or just because something looks really good. This great recipe used up a good amount of my remaining CSA produce, as well as making a bit of space in my cabinets, and all I had to do pick up was some fresh parsley.

This dish is filling, but not dense, the wonderful homey kind of food that is perfect for a cold winter night but also makes great leftovers for lunch for the next day (or two). Although a mild dish overall, the flavors are complex and complementary and the wonderful perfume of the cinnamon comes through. After eating far too much dense and unhealthy food over Christmas, it was nice to have a healthy, filling meal packed full of the whole grains and vegetables that got neglected over the holiday. Although I'm definitely not one to diet over the holidays (or at all), I will say that I feel much better when I eat healthfully, and this dish was a great way to get back on track.

Butternut Squash Couscous
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4 to 6

1/4 cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
One 15-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 3/4-inch dice
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 cups low-sodium canned vegetable or chicken broth or homemade stock
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
One 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous

1. In a small frying pan toast the almonds over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Or, toast them in a 350° oven for 5 to 10 minutes.

2. In a Dutch oven, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne, nutmeg, and cinnamon and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Stir in the tomatoes, squash, raisins, broth, and 1 teaspoon of the salt and bring to a simmer. Stir in the chickpeas and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Uncover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the parsley.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the water and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Cover, remove from the heat, and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve the stew over the couscous and top with the toasted almonds.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Egg Nog Latte

Egg nog is a treat I indulge in every couple of years, although partly out of nostalgia, because I don't love it nearly as much as I did as a kid. I wasn't planning on picking any up this year, but when I saw that Sassy Cow Creamery made an egg nog, I had to try it. I had a glass spiked with a little Christmas spirit on Christmas Eve, made some into egg nog french toast Christmas morning after starting my Christmas morning with a rich egg nog latte.

I gave a range for both the egg nog and the milk because egg nog varies a lot in thickness and richness from brand to brand. If you're really craving a rich treat and you may even want to go with all egg nog, provided it isn't too thick. Although I could never drink lattes that are so rich on a regular basis, it's a nice once-a-year treat during the Christmas season.

Egg Nog Latte
serves 1

1/2 to 3/4 cup egg nog
1/4 to 1/2 cup whole milk
2 shots espresso (or very strong coffee)
Ground cinnamon and nutmeg, for garnish

1. Combine the egg nog and milk and heat, either in a small saucepan on the stove or in the microwave taking care not to scald the milk. Froth the milk with the espresso maker (if you have one).

2. Pour the espresso into mug and add the hot egg nog mixture, stirring during the addition. Top with a bit of froth and a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg. Enjoy hot.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No-Bake Chocolate Custard

Although I'm not really a fan of Christmas, I will take any available opportunity for a special meal. Per my request, my husband and I enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve meal at home, just the two of us. For dinner we had absolutely amazing smoked pork chops from Pecatonica Valley Farm that I picked up at the farmer's market and wonderful baked Kennebec potatoes from my CSA, topped with local cheese and sour cream. I wanted to end the meal with a rich and decadent dessert, and my thoughts immediately went to chocolate mousse. Recipes for chocolate puddings, custards, and mousses abound, but I needed one that only made two servings since this dessert was just for the two of us and we'd be leaving for a family Christmas gathering the next day, which led me to this wonderful recipe.

Since this recipe is all about the chocolate, picking a high-quality chocolate is critical, so splurge on something amazing. Great brands include Ghiradelli, which is widely available and relatively inexpensive, Green and Black's, and Scharffen Berger, although this is by no means an exhaustive list. I would also recommend choosing high quality cream, butter, and eggs; I opted for Sassy Cow Creamery heavy cream and Wuthrich unsalted butter, and Pecatonica Valley eggs (the only kind I buy), all high-quality Wisconsin products.

Although at first glance you might find the portions a tad small, once you take a bit of this insanely rich custard you'll understand. This dense dessert is beautifully smooth and packed with rich chocolate flavor, the kind of dessert to linger slowly over, savoring each taste slowly as it hits your tongue. This is an extremely easy, but impressive dessert, perfect for any special occasion. There's only really one place this recipe could go wrong-adding the hot milk mixture to the egg yolk. Make sure to add the milk slowly, especially at first, while whisking constantly or you'll end up scrambling the eggs instead of incorporating them smoothly into the milk mixture. Enjoy!

No-Bake Chocolate Custard
from Food and Wine
serves 2

1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, plus shaved chocolate, for serving
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of ground cinnamon

1. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and 2 tablespoons of the sugar and heat until steaming and the sugar is dissolved. Put the egg yolk in a small bowl and gradually whisk in the hot milk. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.

2. Off the heat, add the chopped chocolate and salt and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter. Pour the custard into 2 shallow bowls and refrigerate briefly, about 5 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream with the cinnamon and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar until softly whipped. Dollop the cream on the custards, sprinkle the chocolate shavings on the cream and serve.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wilted Cabbage with Mustard and Horseradish

I often fall in love with an ingredient or flavor for a while and try to incorporate it into dishes as often as possible. Ever since making cranberry relish at Thanksgiving, I've been a bit obsessed with horseradish. With the last head of green cabbage I went with a spicy, raw preparation so this time I wanted to try something warm and hearty, like the braised cabbage I made with my head of red cabbage. The butter makes the cabbage rich and silky, which is a really great contrast to the punch from the horseradish and grainy mustard. I could have used even more horseradish flavor, but my husband liked it as is (in general he likes things milder in flavor than I do). To add a little extra flavor, substitute your favorite beer for part or all of the water used to cook the cabbage and make the sauce. This is a great weeknight side dish that it takes less than half an hour from start to finish and goes well with many different proteins, especially pork chops or hearty sausage.

Wilted Cabbage with Mustard and Horseradish
from Gourmet, via Epicurious
serves 4

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
2 to 2 1/2 lb green cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips (12 cups)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1 tablespoon coarse-grain mustard
1 teaspoon bottled horseradish
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1. Heat butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in cabbage, salt, and 1/2 cup water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until cabbage is just tender, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish.
2. Whisk together mustard, horseradish, and flour in skillet, then add remaining 1/2 cup water and whisk until combined well. Simmer 2 minutes, then stir into cabbage. Season with salt and pepper. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Vegetable Shepherd's Pie

I picked up the final box from my winter CSA last week, so I have a bounty of vegetables that will last me clear into the new year. With so many vegetables to use up, I couldn't have asked for a more perfect recipe. This shepherd's pie is incredibly flavorful and hearty and was the perfect dinner on a snowy Monday evening. This is also a great entree to serve at a holiday dinner or winter dinner party with vegetarian guests and could easily be made vegan by substituting olive oil for butter when cooking the vegetables and a vegan shortening (like Earth Balance) for the butter in the mashed potatoes. But if you're like me and can't get enough dairy in your life, top the mashed potatoes with shredded cheese before putting it under the broiler.

The combination of vegetables are endless; I used Kennebec potatoes, one red onion and one yellow onion, parsnips, celeriac, and carrots, though I can think of many other wonderful combinations. My favorite brand of broth is Pacific Natural Foods, and I used their organic free range chicken broth, but their vegetable and mushroom broths would also make excellent choices. In general I prefer to use low-sodium commercial broths or stocks so I can adjust the salt level myself. Anytime a recipe calls for prepared broth and salt it is advisable to add less than full amount the recipe calls for to start because the saltiness of commercial broths and stocks varies widely.

Not only does this make a fantastic dinner, but the leftovers are absolutely superb the next day. While the texture is best fresh out the oven since the potato topping is nice and crispy, the flavors are even more developed.

Winter Vegetable Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4 to 6

2 pounds baking potatoes (about 4), peeled and cut into large pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large onions, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups sliced mixed winter vegetables, such as celery, turnips, Brussels sprouts, parsnips, fennel, cabbage, or celery root
2 carrots, sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth or homemade stock

1. Put the potatoes in a medium saucepan of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and put them back into the saucepan along with 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Mash the potatoes over very low heat, gradually incorporating the cream and 4 tablespoons of the butter. Cover and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over moderately low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the sliced mixed vegetables, carrots, thyme, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Mix well.

3. Stir in the broth and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderate heat, covered, until the vegetables start to soften, 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat to moderately high, and cook until the vegetables are tender and almost no liquid remains in the pan, about 10 minutes longer.

4. Heat the broiler. Transfer the vegetables to a 9-inch pie plate, spread the potatoes over the top, and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Squares

Although I'm actually not a big fan of Christmas, I am a fan of many of the foods that appear this time of year, the ginger-based confections (gingersnaps, gingerbread, etc.) being among them. I adore ginger and will eat crystallized ginger by the (small) handful if I have it around. I was in the mood for a slightly sweet treat and this super quick and moderately healthy version of gingerbread was just the ticket.

I used molasses, as is typical for most gingerbread recipes, but I have a jar of local Rollings Meadows sorghum that I'd like to try substituting for the molasses the next time I make this recipe. There three grades of molasses-mild, dark, and blackstrap, all of which may be sulfured or unsulfured-and you can use any you like in this recipe. Blackstrap molasses comes from the third boiling and concentration of molasses and has the lowest sugar concentration (and calories) of the three varieties. It is also often sold as a health supplement because of its high potassium, calcium, magnesium, and iron content, so you may want to go that direction for a healthier, but less sweet gingerbread cake.

Whole Wheat Gingerbread Squares
adapted from Cooking Light
makes one 9-inch square cake

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine flour, ginger, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring to thoroughly combine.

3. Combine sugar, buttermilk, molasses, butter, and egg in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Stir in flour mixture.

4. Pour batter into baking pan and bake at 350° for 18 to 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Sprinkle gingerbread with powdered sugar.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Whole Wheat Ricotta Pancakes

I love breakfast for dinner. Be it a hearty plate of pancakes or waffles or savory bacon and eggs, a big breakfast for dinner always feels like a treat. I'm still lucky enough to have a few jars of Perfect Blueberry Syrup that I made from farmer's market blueberries this summer and when I was puzzling over what to do with the leftover ricotta cheese from Healthy Macaroni and Cheese, I instantly thought of ricotta pancakes. I'm never going to order pancakes at IHOP and instant pancake mixes don't interest me, but I love special pancakes like these (and all the wonderful ones I've tried from Good to the Grain like the absolutely fantastic Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes). The ricotta makes these pancakes slightly sweet and wonderfully smooth and creamy and when topped with sliced almonds, more ricotta, and blueberry syrup feels you're getting away with having dessert for breakfast, even though these are pretty healthy (or you could go all out and add whipped cream, toasted coconut, chocolate chips, and almonds). Cheese pretty much makes everything better, so I'm not surprised I love these pancakes so much. If you want a quick and easy to prepare breakfast to impress your family on Christmas morning that fills them up but leaves room for the feasting ahead, this may be just the recipe for you.

Whole Wheat Ricotta Pancakes
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 2 to 4

1 cup part-skim ricotta
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons honey

Sliced, toasted almonds, for serving (optional)
Perfect Blueberry Syrup, for serving (optional)
Additional ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)

1. In a blender, mix the ricotta, eggs, egg whites, flour, oil, vanilla, salt and honey until smooth.

2. Meanwhile, heat a nonstick griddle over moderately low heat. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake, allowing enough room for them to spread slightly. Cook the pancakes until the bottoms are golden, the tops are slightly set and small bubbles appear, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip the pancakes and cook until golden, about 1 minute longer. Top with additional ricotta cheese, sliced almonds, and blueberry syrup if desired and serve warm.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzels Mix

If you love baking and don't know who David Lebovitz is, you should. Lebovitz spent thirteen years at the venerated Chez Panisse and is an accomplished cookbook author and now runs a fantastic website that recounts his culinary journeys and experiments, which is where I found this gem of a recipe.

This snack mix is super easy to make, but is sweet, salty, and spicy all at the same time and I found myself repeatedly returning to the kitchen to snag little tastes while I was supposed to be letting it cool completely. I opted for a 50:50 combination of almonds and pecans, but I also think cashews would be superb (I just didn't happen to have any). Keep a close eye on the nuts when toasting them because it doesn't take very long to go from nicely toasted to burnt. I also recommend lining the baking sheet with aluminum foil-not only does it protect your baking sheets, but it will enable you to take the mixture off the baking sheet and cool it to room temperature more quickly. And as with any good recipe, I'm already envisioning the personal signature I can put on my next batch...

Spiced Glazed Nuts and Pretzels Mix
from David Lebovitz

2 cups (200 gr) mixed raw nuts (untoasted); any combination of cashews, whole almonds, peanuts, pecan halves, and hazelnuts
1 tablespoon (15 gr) unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons (45 gr) dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or another red pepper)
1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups (100 gr) small pretzel twists

1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes, stirring once for even toasting.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, cayenne, and maple syrup.

3. Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated. Then mix in the salt and pretzels, and stir until the nuts and pretzels are completely coated.

4. Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the nuts and pretzels as they cool.
Once cool, this mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Roasted Delicata Squash with Quinoa Salad

Michael Symon is one of my favorite celebrity chefs. I love the show Food Feuds and he's one of the most entertaining competitors on Iron Chef America, but I first became intrigued by this chef after reading about him in Michael Ruhlman's fantastic book, The Soul of a Chef. Food and Wine is one of my most-trusted recipe sources, but when the recipe is also such a fantastic chef, I can be pretty sure it's a winner. I really like quinoa and it's nutritionally one of the best foods out there, so I try to work it into my diet as often as possible. It's a complete protein and thus a great option for vegetarians, vegans, and people just trying to have a healthy diet that isn't so dependent on animal protein (and people with little time on their hands to cook-quinoa is a very quick-cooking grain).

This recipe calls for delicata squash, but I used acorn squash instead (because I had it on hand) and the recipe made enough quinoa salad to generously fill six squash halves. While the presentation is beautiful, actually eating the quinoa salad by scooping it out of the intact squash shell with the squash flesh is a bit more difficult. I cut my squash shell in half, scooped out the squash flesh and mixed it in with the quinoa salad. The soft and sweet squash mingles well with the nutty quinoa, crunchy and tart apples, and peppery arugula, filling you up and leaving you feeling healthy and energized.

Roasted Delicata Squash with Quinoa Salad
from Michael Symon, via Food and Wine

2 Delicata squash (about 1 pound each), halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup quinoa
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 large shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 ounces arugula (2 cups)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the cut sides of the squash with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and season the cavities with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on a baking sheet and roast for about 45 minutes, until tender.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the raisins and simmer, covered, until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and let cool.

3. In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar and honey with the remaining 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the quinoa along with the apple, shallot, garlic, mint and parsley and toss well. Add the arugula and toss gently.

4. Set the squash halves on plates. Fill with the salad and serve.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Roasted Squash with Red Onion, Oregano and Mint

I love roasted squash, but most of the time once the squash has finished roasting I puree it either for use in a simple puree or for use in a creamy soup. Since I've gotten butternut squash in every one of my CSA deliveries, I've been constantly on the lookout for delicious butternut (and acorn and delicata) squash recipes. I first saw this particular recipe when it was part of slide show on the Food and Wine homepage of star chef's favorite holiday dishes. I'd considered making it a part of the Thanksgiving meal I hosted, partly because it look delicious and partly because it could be made ahead of time, but picked more traditional sides instead. I kept this recipe bookmarked and as my next (and sadly last) CSA delivery date approaches I decided it was time to come back to this recipe. And it is fantastic! I'm already a big fan of Mario Batali, despite the fact that man wears Crocs in public, but this made me love him even more. This is so simple, but absolutely packed with flavor from the sweet squash, savory herbs, and sharp red onion. Like any good recipe, the flavor is so much more than the sum of its ingredients and each bite makes you want more. Be sure to choose good quality olive oil and vinegar for this dish, because they are large components of the overall flavor. Make this for a quick weeknight side, luxurious weekend dinner, or big holiday celebration and you're sure to be pleased.

Roasted Squash with Red Onion, Oregano, and Mint
from Mario Batali, via Food and Wine
serves 8

Two 2 1/2-pound butternut squash, preferably organic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 garlic clove, very thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 cup mint leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 450°. Slice the squash crosswise 1 inch thick; scrape out any seeds. Lightly oil 2 baking sheets and arrange the squash slices on them. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until just tender.

2. Combine the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil with the vinegar, onion, oregano, garlic and crushed red pepper. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the warm squash and let stand for 20 minutes.
3. Arrange the squash on plates, sprinkle with the mint leaves and serve.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Maple Oatmeal Muffins

Come rain or sleet or 6 inches of snow, the dog still has to get out for a walk each morning. After trudging through the deep snow in brisk winter wind this morning, I was in desperate need of a warm and satisfying breakfast. I've had this recipe bookmarked for a couple months and decided this was the perfect morning to whip up a batch. These muffins are moist, tender, and although mild in overall taste, have a pleasant maple flavor. Next time I plan on substituting part of the brown sugar for maple syrup to amp up the maple flavor even more. One of these healthy and satisfying muffins with a sliced apple and a homemade maple latte made for a comforting and filling breakfast on a brisk winter morning.

Maple Oatmeal Muffins
adapted from Bon Appetit, via Epicurious

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line twelve 1/3-cup muffin cups with paper liners. Combine first 6 ingredients in large bowl and stir to blend. Whisk buttermilk, applesauce, maple syrup, brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla in medium bowl until well blended. Add to dry ingredients and stir just to incorporate (do not overmix).

2. Divide batter equally among muffin cups (batter will reach top of cups). Bake until muffin tops are golden brown and tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Braised Red Cabbage with Caraway and Apple

With the last head of (green) cabbage I got from my CSA, I went for a raw preparation and made the fresh and crunchy Sesame Coleslaw. This time, over a month later and deep into the recesses of winter, I wanted to make a warm cabbage dish. After a bit of searching, I found this fantastic recipe for a hearty braised cabbage which, served alongside some chicken bratwurst from Pecatonica Valley Farm, made for the perfect dinner on a blustery winter night. All the elements are well-balanced; the sweet brown sugar and apples, tannic wine, and acidic cabbage blend together in a filling, but not heavy, dish. The leftovers are just as fantastic-although the texture is a bit different (you may or may not like the cabbage getting softer), the flavors have had a chance to more deeply infuse the cabbage and mingle with each other.

Braised Red Cabbage with Caraway and Apple
from Food and Wine
serves 8

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 head red cabbage (about 3 pounds), cored and shredded
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 Golden Delicious apple—peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the red cabbage and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until slightly wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in the red wine and cook until evaporated. Add the cider vinegar and bring to a boil. Stir in the apple, brown sugar, caraway seeds and mustard seeds and season with salt and pepper. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is tender, about 1 hour. Transfer to a bowl and serve. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cheddar and Parmesan Tuna Melts

When I started putting this together, I had every intention of making the typical tuna, mayo, and relish tuna salad, topping it with a slice of cheddar, grilling until warm and gooey, and calling it good. But, as happens quite frequently these days, I looked at the other ingredients I had on hand and got inspired to jazz it up just a bit. I've never regretted adding more cheese to a dish, and when I saw the delicious Hook's Parmesan in the fridge I knew it would make the perfect addition, along with a bit of chopped onion. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of creativity and a couple of extra ingredients to take a recipe from ordinary to wonderful.

Cheddar and Parmesan Tuna Melts
serves 2

One 6-ounce can tuna packed in water, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup light mayo
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 whole wheat pitas (or 4 slices of bread)

1. Combine tuna, onion, mayo, and Parmesan in a medium bowl and mix well. Season to taste with pepper (and salt, if desired, though the Parmesan should be plenty salty).

2. Preheat a panini press (I love my Cuisinart Griddler) according to manufacturer's directions (or preheat a large skillet over medium heat). Spread tuna mixture evenly on one pita, sprinkle with cheddar cheese, and top with second pita. Grill until tuna mixture is warm and cheese is melted, about 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into quarters and serve warm.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Celeriac and Fingerling Potato Mash

When celeriac showed up in my CSA, I didn't have a lot of ideas beyond throwing it a bit pot of soup with lots of other root vegetables. But after I had an absolutely amazing celeriac soup with beef tongue pastrami-Worcestershire ragout, horseradish cream, and chives for the amuse bouche at L'Etoile this past weekend, I felt inspired to step it up a little. I've been really enjoying horseradish lately after making Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish as part of Thanksgiving dinner and this was the perfect opportunity to bring this ingredient into a dish again.

I chose to leave the skins on my potatoes, but you can peel them if you like. I personally like the more rustic texture and taste of the skins, but they're not to everyone's taste. I used fingerling potatoes because they are excellent for mashing, but there are many other varieties that would be excellent like Yukon Golds or red potatoes. Also not for everyone is prepared horseradish, but I think the astringent punch is great against the creamy fingerlings and distinctive celery root flavor. That said, this is dish is also excellent without it.

Celeriac and Fingerling Potato Mash
serves 6 to 8

2 pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved or quartered (depending on size)
1 pound celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into pieces roughly the same size of the potatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup milk, half-and-half or cream
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and celery root and cook until tender, 18 to 22 minutes. Drain thoroughly, return to pot and mash to desired texture.

2. Add butter, milk and horseradish and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve warm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Maple-Glazed Carrots and Parsnips

When dinner's main dish requires a lot of effort, it's easy to let the vegetable fall by the wayside, but just because you don't have a lot of time, doesn't mean you can't turn out a healthy dish with a lot of flavor. Maple syrup provides a depth of flavor in addition to sweetness and is the perfect flavor to pair with hearty root vegetables. If for some reason you're not a fan of maple syrup, honey would also work well in this simple glaze.

Maple-Glazed Parsnips and Carrots
serves 4

1 lb. carrots, peeled
1 lb. parsnips, peeled
2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. maple syrup
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut parsnips and carrots into approximately 1/4-inch thick coins, cutting very large pieces in half as necessary to ensure even cooking. Add parsnips and carrots and cook until crisp-tender, 6 to 10 minutes (or to desired texture), drain, and return to the pot.

2. Add maple syrup and butter to the pot with the parsnips and carrots and toss until thoroughly coated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

I chose to make this macaroni and cheese not because I wanted a lighter version of macaroni and cheese (I love cheese and other full-fat dairy products), but because I wanted a different way to use up some of plentiful squash from my CSA. This is by no means as rich and creamy as macaroni cheese made with cream, full-fat cheese, and without squash, but it is thoroughly satisfying and flavorful dish. Because there is less cheese, cream, and overall than in a typical macaroni and cheese recipe, the quality of the cheese is particularly important here. I used Cedar Grove sharp cheddar, Bel Gioioso ricotta, and Hook's Parmesan, all high-quality, Wisconsin-made cheeses so my dish was not lacking for flavor. 

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 6

1 small butternut squash (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt, plus more for water
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound elbow macaroni
4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 ounce)
2 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon olive oil
Olive-oil cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine squash, stock, and milk in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Mash contents of saucepan; stir in nutmeg, cayenne, and salt, and season with black pepper. Stir to combine.

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil; add salt. Add noodles; cook until al dente, according to package instructions, about 8 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl; stir in squash mixture, cheddar, ricotta, and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.

3. Lightly coat a 8 x 11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Transfer noodle mixture to dish. In a small bowl, combine breadcrumbs, the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan, and oil; sprinkle evenly over noodle mixture.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until mixture is starting to bubble and bread crumbs are starting to brown. Increase oven to broil and cook until bread crumbs are toasted and brown, if desired. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Banana Walnut Bread

I've had a huge craving for banana bread all week and a snowy Saturday morning is the perfect time to whip up a loaf. I seldom buy bananas to eat plain, but I can't resist a piece of banana bread. I've been obsessed pumpkin baked goods lately and it's time for a change of pace. My favorite part about the Christmas season are all the wonderful cookies, cakes, candies, and breads and I'd bake something new nearly every night if I had enough people to feed with my culinary creations. While I love all manner of treats, I still like to make them as healthy as possible, using more nutritious substitutions when they don't detract (and perhaps even enhance) the flavor and texture of the final product. Many people think that banana bread is healthy just because it has bananas, but fail to think about the often copious amounts of butter and sugar and the refined white flour. This bread is made with whole wheat pastry flour and flaxseed meal with a sprinkling of heart-healthy walnuts and is great as breakfast, a snack, or even dessert (I prefer a slice with tea before bed). In a season of constant indulgences, it's good to have some treats that aren't a nutritional black hole.

Banana Walnut Bread
adapted from Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until combined.

3. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through ground allspice). Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Fold chopped walnuts gently into batter and pour batter into pan. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool completely.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish

NPR nerds, this recipe is for you. Every year Susan Stamberg comes on the air to share her mother-in-law's recipe for cranberry relish. Although perhaps most closely associated with Susan Stamberg, this recipe is actually Craig Claiborne's was clipped from a 1959 issue of the New York Times by Stamberg's mother-in-law. I'm a huge fan of cranberry sauce and couldn't imagine Thanksgiving without it, but this list of ingredients is a strange enough combination to make even the biggest cranberry sauce fan pause for a second or two. But it's always gotten rave reviews so I decided this year, my second hosting a Thanksgiving meal, was the year to try it out.

With the first taste, I thought the relish was fine, but nothing special. But the more I ate, the more I loved it! I went back for a second helping of turkey in large part because I wanted to slather it with more cranberry relish. The horseradish flavor is strong, but is in nice balance with the rich sour cream and tart cranberries. I think I'll be making this more than just on Thanksgiving and looking to put my own little twist on this recipe.

Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish
via NPR, originally from the New York Times

2 cups whole raw cranberries, washed
1 small onion
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons horseradish from a jar ("red is a bit milder than white")

1. Grind the raw berries and onion together. ("I use an old-fashioned meat grinder," says Stamberg. "I'm sure there's a setting on the food processor that will give you a chunky grind — not a puree.")

2. Add everything else and mix. Put in a plastic container and freeze.

3. Early Thanksgiving morning, move it from freezer to refrigerator compartment to thaw. ("It should still have some little icy slivers left.") The relish will be thick, creamy, and shocking pink. ("OK, Pepto Bismol pink. It has a tangy taste that cuts through and perks up the turkey and gravy. Its also good on next-day turkey sandwiches, and with roast beef.")