Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Thanksgiving Dinner That Couldn't Be Beat --

Yesterday (Thanksgiving) we went to visit our friends, Carol and Mark.  They provided a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner and I brought buttermilk rolls to round out the dinner of braised rabbit, green beans, mashed potatoes, and cippolini onions, with a lemon icebox cake for dessert.  It was delicious!

Today, Michael and I had our own 'mini' Thanksgiving dinner.  We split two cornish game hens in half and roasted them in a 350F oven for an hour on a bed of the usual turkey stuffing (stuffing bread cubes, sauteed mild Italian sausage, an onion and 3 ribs of diced celery all moistened with chicken broth, 2 eggs and a bit o' homemade romano cheese).  For an additional 20 minutes we raised the temperature to 400F and completed roasting the little birds.  Michael made some gravy and we added cranberry sauce and steamed spinach to finish the meal.  We were so full from yesterday that we split a half a birdie, then had pies for dessert (sweet potatoe pie for me, sweet potato pecan pie for Michael).  Yes, we had another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat.  We have leftovers too, but not the gigantic turkey that usually feeds us with soup and leftovers for the next month!  Next year maybe we only need one little bird for the two of us!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baking Pies

Just like last year, I'm baking two pies the day before Thanksgiving.  One pie is a sweet potato pecan pie from Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Cookbook.  This is Michael's favorite pie served with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.  The second pie is my choice and I chose sweet potato/butternut squash pie.

This year's sweet potato pie recipe comes from Lorraine, the farmer's wife from Eatwell Farm.  Last year I made a Southern sweet potato pie from a recipe on  It was excellent, but this year I wanted to try Lorraine's.  Here's the recipe--

Sweet Potato/Butternut Squash Pie

1 lb. sweet potatoes, roasted
1/2 lb. butternut squash, roasted
1/2 cup butter, softened (lets say just about melted)
1/4 cup maple syrup (yup, good pies doesn't come cheaply)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp nutmeg (fresh ground, this seemed like alot, I only used about 1/4 tsp because that's all I had on hand)

Bake the sweet potatoes and the squash for 1 hour.  Allow to cool.  Remove skins and save the delicious pulp.  Mash well, or mix well in a mixer.  Add the butter and mix well.  Stir in sugar, maple syrup, buttermilk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth.  Pour filling into an unbaked deep dish pie crust.  Bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dark Chicken Broth - Who Knew Chicken Backs could taste so good!

When we have roast chicken, I buy a whole chicken, part it out myself and freeze the backs and wings for later use to make chicken broth.  Up until now, I have always made golden(light) chicken broth using the backs and wings. 

But today, I am trying something new.  We are having our own 'little' Thanksgiving on Friday, after the usual Thanksgiving with friends on Thursday.  Usually, I make a full on whole turkey dinner, but this year we are really focused on getting the house ready for sale and our pending move to Orcas Island - not much energy or time left to deal with a whole big bird, or 'elephant' as we like to call it( as in 'The gods have given us an elephant, you must help us eat it').  So we decided to have some cornish game hens roasted over the usual turkey stuffing.  However, what to do about turkey gravy?  The little birds will hardly render enough fat or juices to make good gravy.  That's when I remembered reading about dark chicken broth in David Tanis' book A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes.  You make the dark broth and then reduce it and freeze it for later use in whatever recipe that calls for a flavorful chicken broth. 

Without further ado, here is the recipe -

1 organic chicken, about 4 lbs. (I can't bear to waste good chicken, so I used 2 chicken backs and 4 wings)
1 medium onion, quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and chunked
1 celery stalk
6 quarts water
a thyme branch or two
bay leaf
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Split the chicken in half.  Place it, unseasoned, in a shallow roasting pan and scatter teh vegetables over and around it.  Roast uncovered at 400F for 15 minutes then reduce the heat to 350F and roast for about another 45 minutes, turning frequently, roast until the bird is very brown but NOT burnt on all sides. 

Put the contents of the pan in a stockpot and cover with the water.  Be sure to deglaze the roasting pan to get all the good browned bits off the pan.  Put the thyme and bay leaf in the stock pot. Add the tomato paste.

Simmer the stock for 2 hours or until reduced by half.  Refrigerate and then degrease.  Save the grease for some awesome gravy.  Your stock should be a rich brown and lightly gelatinized.  It can be refrigerated for several days or frozen for future use. 

For a simple dark sauce reduction, boils 2 cups of the half reduced stock until 1 cup remains.  Just 1 cup of this second reduction will be so rich it will make enough sauce for 8 servings.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Lots to be Thankful For from Eatwell Farm

What's coming our way from Eatwell Farm just before Thanksgiving -

Navel oranges or satsuma mandarins
Fuji persimmons
Green celery
Rosemary and sage
New Potatoes
Sweet potatoes

Where do I start?  Navel oranges or satsumas, I've been waiting all year - LOVE fresh oranges, but I refuse to buy the ones in the store from Australia, I'm so glad these are now in season in California.  Green celery will make a great addition to the stuffing on Thanksgiving along with rosemary and sage.  I like to make a stuffing bread and use it to make stuffing.  The recipe is from a bread machine cookbook and has all the usual stuffing herbs and spices in it as well as some oatmeal and corn meal.  The bread makes great turkey sandwiches too. 

Broccoli, another stir fry is in the plans.  Romanesco gratin will probably be on our menu for Thanksgiving.  Cauliflower - I really need to do an Indian aloo gobi with it and the new potatoes. The sweet potatoes will get baked for sweet potato pie and Michael's favorite sweet potato pecan pie.  I may need to use the butternut squash too to have enough for both pies.  Spinach and leek tart sounds good for a dinner.  Onions we just use all the time, I'm sure some will find their way into some stuffing and maybe even in the aloo gobi. 

Can't wait to get this box of great food from Eatwell Farm, all organic and raised thanks to Nigel's chickens who till the pastures making way for the plow and planters.  Chicken power!  Tilling, pest management and fertilizers all in one.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This Week's CSA Basket from Eatwell Farm

Can you say cruciferous vegetables?  Not sure I spelled it right, but this week's CSA share is loaded with them -

Wakefield cabbage
Baby Bol choy
Italian parsley
Sweet potatoes

I like stir fry with broccoli and bok choy so that's one meal.  Romanesco gratin with roasted sweet potatoes - I just can't get enough of that, along with some meatloaf - a tasty dinner.  The cabbage and beets will be used with another head of cabbage to make some sauerkraut.  Macaroni and cheese with pureed cauliflower, whole peas and a bit o' ham sounds good to me.  Lettuce for salads along with the radishes.  Onions are always good in so many things - a little in the meatloaf, some in the mac and cheese, sauteed of course.  Italian parsley adds a dash of green to any dish or use the stems for making chicken broth.
Good meals here any way you look at it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sourdough Rye and Sesame Crackers

I've been making lots of rye bread lately- 2 loaves for my quilt friends and today, another two for Michael and I.  I invariably have some rye starter leftover when putting the bread together.  What could be better than homemade rye crackers?  I essentially follow the recipe in a previous November 2011 post regarding sourdough whole wheat crackers, using leftover rye starter in place of the whole wheat starter.  Also I put the sesame seeds directly into the dough before rolling it out as thinly as possible.  Cut the crackers and bake. 

These are really good with some brie, or fresh soft cheese, or just munch them, yum!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pizza, pizza!

I LOVE pizza, any kind, but I am partial to mushrooms.  Today I made a half whole wheat half white flour pizza and topped it with some of the eggplant tomato sauce, sauteed mushrooms and artichoke hearts along with a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.  Baked for 20 minutes in the oven at 400F this pizza was delicious served with an arugula salad containing apples, blue cheese and toasted pine nuts.  Too bad we couldn't have some wine with it, but Michael was headed for work in an hour so that was out of the question. 

My recipe for pizza dough is pretty simple -

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups white bread flour (I like King Arthur bread flour the best)
1/2 tsp salt

Mix this together to distribute the salt and combine the two flours.

In a 1 cup glass measuring cup, measure 1 cup of warm water and add to it 1 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast, stir to combine then add 2 TBSP olive oil.  Pour this into the flour and mix well.  You may need to add some water to get a workable dough.  Knead of a few minutes, then lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in the bowl and turn it over so all sides are coated with oil.  Let it rise in a warm place 45 to 60 minutes.  When doubled, spread it out in a pizza pan -  I have a round one about 14 inches wide.  Top with your favorite sauce and toppings, bake in a 400F oven for 18 to 20 minutes until the cheese is golden and melted.  Remove from the oven, allow to cool a few minutes then slice and eat.  Yum!

You could make this dough ahead of time up to the point of allowing it to rise and freeze some in a plastic baggie coated with olive oil for later use.  To use later, remove from freezer, remove dough from the baggie and allow the dough to defrost slowly outside the fridge in a covered bowl until it reaches room temperature.  Allow it to rise until double in bulk and then proceed as for pizza as outlined above.  This pizza beats waiting in line at Papa Murphy's any day of the week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

I roasted a small eggplant yesterday.  You cut the eggplant in half, rub olive oil on the cut parts and place on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or aluminum foil.  Bake the eggplant in a 350F oven for 40 minutes or so, until soft and fork tender.  I let the eggplant cool and then began the sauce.

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

1 roasted eggplant, skin removed, so you have a cup or two of pulp
1 quart pureed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. sugar
1 TBSP or more Italian seasoning
1 TBSP or more Dried Parsley
1/3 cup white wine or vodka
3 TBSP olive oil

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil 'til 'shimmery', add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring to coat the onion and garlic with the oil.  Cook until the onion is wilted, do not brown the garlic.  Add salt and cayenne and stir.  Lower heat and add the tomatoes and eggplant, stir in the remaining seasonings, sugar and wine/vodka.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Then puree the sauce using an immersion stick blender or regular blender.  Serve this tasty sauce over cavatelli, or gnocchi, ziti or any other pasta you enjoy!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

This Week's CSA Box from Eatwell Farm

Here is the list of goodies in this week's Eatwell Farm box--

Sweet potatoes
Butternut squash
Three kale stir fry

More persimmons for Michael.  If he doesn't eat them all, I might try to make a persimmon bread.  Cauliflower - aloo gobi this week or maybe a gratin.  Broccoli and kale for a chicken stir fry.  Arugula salad with pomegranate dressing, blue cheese and pecans sounds good.  Collards and sweet potatoes with oven baked chicken sounds like a good meal.  Lettuce and radishes for a good salad.  Butternut squash pie anyone?  You roast the squash and use it like pumpkin for your favorite pie.  Thyme will be dried and stored.  I love the fall/winter boxes, they always have lots of good things to eat.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Squash Soup and Other Delights

Yesterday was a major cooking day.  I started out roasting an acorn squash and a butternut squash for soup.  While that was in the oven for an hour of baking, I put together the beginnings of a loaf of whole wheat bread.  After that, I started hacking and hewing vegetables for the soup - onions, carrots, fennel and zucchini.  Rummaging around in the freezer, I found a container of Grammie soup, pure gold.  I also took out a container of chicken broth for the squash soup and thawed it in the microwave. 

Last week, we bought 2 small bags of dried serrano chilis from Everything Under the Sun at the San Francisco Farmers Market.  What a treat it was to wander thru all the stalls of wonderful fresh fruit and veggies, fresh cheeses, meats, seafood and lots of other homemade treats.  I took the chilis and ground them in a spice mill to make a very potent/hot serrano paprika.  I like to use this in place of cayenne for an extra kick in sauces and soups. 

Now for the soup, once the squashes were baked, I took out the pulp and placed it in a bowl, the skins went to the worms and compost pile.  A good drizzle of olive oil in my favorite large soup pot (2 1/2 gallon pot).  Added 2 diced onions and 4 cloves of minced garlic.  I let that cook for a while along with a sprinkling of salt.  Once the onions were good and wilted I added a tablespoon of ground cumin, 1/4 tsp. of serrano paprika, a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a tablespoon of dried parsley.  Also added 3 bay leaves and the rest of the diced vegetables, stirred and let the whole mass sweat covered on low heat for about 10 minutes.  After that I added the chicken broth along with a quarter of water.  I brought that all to a aboil over higher heat and then added the squash.  Also let the soup come to a boil and then reset the heat to a simmer.  The soup simmered for about 1 hour until the carrots were cooked.  Then the fun part, I took out the immersion stick blender and made a fine puree of the soup.  After it cooled I froze the soup in 1/2 gallon containers for later use as quick easy dinners with some bread and cheese.

After the soup was done, it was about time to start the bread.  I made my favorite, Peter Reinhart's 100% whole wheat bread from his book Whole Grain Baking.  It makes a great loaf of bread for sandwiches or toasting.  I've taken to grinding my own wheat berries into whole wheat flour and really like the hearty wheat taste of this loaf.  This morning we each enjoyed a slice with strawberry jam and peanut butter, along with our bowls of 10 grain hot cereal.

Life is good!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's coming in this week's Eatwell Farm CSA Box 11/6/2013

Here's what is in store for us this week from Eatwell Farm -

Romaine Lettuce
Summer squash or beets
Wakefield cabbage
Red kale
White or yellow onions
Bok choy
Butternut squash
Fuji persimmons
Sweet potatoes

Wakefield cabbage AND beets (I hope) will make a great sauerkraut.  It IS that time of year and the cooler days ahead beg for some sauerkraut.  Romaine and arugula salads with pomegranate dressing, yum.  Bok choy, yay, I see a great chicken stir fry in the making.  Fractal broccoli, aka romanesco in a gratin would be delicious along with sweet potatoes and some grilled lamb chops.  Onions are always welcome as a start for some butternut squash soup, maybe a side of sauteed kale and onions with it.  Lastly, persimmons are one of Michael's favorite fruits to take for lunch.  Lots of good food here as always. 

Many folks think belonging to a CSA is expensive, but I beg to differ.  The 9 or 10 items I get in the box are worth more than I pay every week for 'the box'.  There is, of course, a committment to be made to eat what comes in the box and make good use of its contents.  The reward is a better diet using more healthy fruits and vegetables that are organically grown.  The box has definitely made a difference in our lives and is a great stepping stone for us when we move to Orcas Island where we plan to grow much of our own fruit and veggies.