Getting Ready

Well, folks, winter is on it’s way and with it, the end of the CSA season.  We still have five more weeks to go with our late fall share, but in anticipation of the vegetable shortage, my husband and I made a day of it getting things ready to freeze. I’ve never gotten into canning, though I’m sure it’s in my future; for now, the freezer will have to suffice. Not everything freezes well and some things we definitely wanted to eat right away, but our freezer is looking pretty well stocked now! I found a great website called Still Tasty that has basic info about the best way to freeze a whole variety of food. Through that website and some additional research, we were able to put up quite a bit of food.

The whole bunch!

Raw Frozen

Peppers

We washed and chopped a variety of green and hot peppers. We did one bag with seeds still in the hot peppers, for my husband, and one bag without seeds for me. These are ready to be used in stir fries or any other recipe with peppers.

Parsley

This is a great techniques that can be used with any leafy herb. Simply wash and chop up. Then divide the herb equally in an ice cube tray. Add a little bit of water to each well (just until you can start to see it) and freeze for 24 hours. After the herb cubes are solid, seal them in a freezer bag and, voila, portioned out parsley!

Blanched then Frozen

Carrots, Turnips, and Beet Greens

These veggies are blanched first to preserve their color and texture. Wash the veggies first and peel and chop the carrots and turnips. To blanch, bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, make a large bowl of ice water. Add the veggies to the boiling water for 2 minutes and then plunge immediately into the ice water. Once cool, remove from ice water and let dry thoroughly. Seal into freezer bags and place in the freezer.

Cooked then Frozen

Beets

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash your beets thoroughly and cut off the greens and roots. In a large baking dish (I used a 9×13 in Pyrex), place the beets and add about 1/4 inch of water. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes or until fork-tender. Plunge the beets into ice water and rub off the skins. Chop or slice and freeze in bags.

Sugar Pumpkin

{Full disclosure, we did the pumpkins another day}

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half and discard the stem. Scoop out the seeds and cook those separately (slow roasted at 300 degrees with olive oil and salt is my personal favorite). In a jelly roll pan, place the two pumpkin halves cut-side down. Add a little water and cover the whole pan tightly with aluminum foil. Roast for about an hour, until the flesh is very tender. Once the pumpkin cools, scoop it out of the skin (if it’s cooked enough, this will be really easy) into a large bowl. Puree with an immersion blender if you have one. This makes an incredibly smooth puree and you don’t need to strain it. Freeze in bags. We did four pumpkins at once and have enough for several pies and other delicious pumpkin treats.

Are there any veggies that you like to preserve for winter?

~CM

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Breakfast For Dinner

Growing up, breakfast for dinner was always a special treat! My mom often made it when my dad was away on business (I don’t think it was enough food for him!) and my sister and I loved it. Usually, it consisted of scrambled eggs, toast, and some sort of vegetable. (If you want to see what we looked like then, take a look at my other source of internet fame…yes, seriously. I’m the one with the bowl cut!)

Lately, I’ve been on a bit of a breakfast for dinner kick as well. It’s an easy way to throw together a satisfying and relatively guilt-free meal. Tonight, I’ve got two of my “grown-up” breakfast for dinner favorites. One has no pictures and one has no real recipe, so bear with me. We’ll go for the no-recipe version first. Of course, both of these meals are great for breakfast or lunch, too.

Easy Eggs Florentine-ish

This is such an easy meal. It literally took me 15 minutes, fridge to table. Not bad for a yummy dinner!

Take a bunch of spinach (like a whole bunch, spinach cooks down SO much) and wash it thoroughly. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add the spinach and cook down over medium heat.

It will quickly go from this:

To this:

Once it looks about like this, add a splash of half & half and continue to cook for about 2 minutes. Meanwhile, fry up an egg to your liking in a tiny bit of olive oil and toast a delicious slice of multigrain bread. To finish the spinach, add a scant tablespoon of cream cheese and a bit of pepper. Cook until the cream cheese melts and serve it up!

And there you’ve got breakfast for dinner! I love that this serving here has an entire bag of spinach in it and I ate it in about 5 minutes. Yum! (In the background, you can see my current reading material, The Lotus Eaters. Has anyone else read it? I’m really enjoying it so far.)

And now for the recipe portion. My husband and I made this on Sunday night, but I didn’t get any pictures, you we’ll just have to make do with the recipe. This is the second time we’ve made it this month, so it’s definitely in our regular rotation. This is from the same great cookbook as this meal from earlier this month.

Sweet Potato and Barley Hash

Adapted from Simply Organic by Jesse Ziff Cool

  • one large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4 in cubes
  • one small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • salt & pepper
  • as many eggs as you want (at least 1 per person)

In a medium saucepan (I used the one in the pictures above), toast the barley dry over medium heat, tossing frequently, for about 5 minutes. They’ll start to brown and smell delicious and nutty when they’re ready. Remove from the heat and put the barley aside. Wipe out the saucepan, and put it back over medium heat with the two tablespoons of olive oil. Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the barley and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for about 40 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the barley is soft enough. I’d check it after 30 minutes just in case. Meanwhile, cook up one or two eggs per person any way you prefer. I like to cook them over-medium so the yolk can seep into the hash and make it even more delicious. Serve it up with eggs on top and a salad on the side.

Do you have any favorite childhood meals that you’ve recreated?

~CM

Squash Party

So, I went a bit crazy on Friday night and Saturday morning. The fall produce was calling my name and I went for it. {In recovery mode last night, I had a simple dinner of pasta with olive oil and pecorino romano and a side of sauteed Brussels sprouts. Perfect easy-on-the-belly dinner.} How crazy did I go, you ask? I’ll let you be the judge of that! On Friday night, we had a couple of friends over for dinner and I was so excited to put together a delicious fall meal.

Here is the set table, just awaiting the main course!

I managed to make the meal using all veggies from our CSA share (except for sage and thyme) and everyone was quite satisfied. The menu was:

  • Salad: Romaine lettuce and thinly sliced radishes tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • Bread: Pumpernickel Rye from Bread & Circus
  • Main Course: Butternut squash and pancetta risotto (recipe below)
  • Drink: Hot apple cider spiked with bourbon and served with a cinnamon stick
  • Dessert: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (recipe below)

It was quite the meal! My husband and I woke up the next morning still feeling inspired (despite the war-zone in the kitchen) and made pumpkin pancakes (recipe below) with the remainder of our pumpkin puree.

With apple cider and maple syrup, these became the breakfast of champions!

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Today’s Recipes

Butternut Squash and Pancetta Risotto

{I’m not sure where this recipe is from…it’s written down in my handwriting from several years ago}

Serves 4 to 6

Butternut Squash:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 in cubes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Risotto:

  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 lb pancetta, small dice
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped roughly

Spiced Butter:

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roasted
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of dried ginger

Start by cooking the squash. In a large cast iron skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Add the squash and cook for about 6 minutes, until golden on all sides. Add brown sugar and cook until squash is caramelized and tender. Set aside and keep warm.

Your finished squash will look like these lovelies.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the spiced butter. In a bowl, crush roasted garlic with a fork. {I roast my garlic cloves by making a little tin foil packet, drizzling them with olive oil, wrapping them up, and cooking them in the toaster oven at 325 degrees for about 10 minutes or until they are nice and soft.} Mix in 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter, marjoram, cinnamon, and ginger and set aside.

Now it’s time to start the main event! Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low and keep warm.

Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and saute until lightly browned. Add onion and cook until softened. Stir in rice, sage, and thyme. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring until well coated. Turn heat to medium-high and add wine. Simmer until mostly absorbed. Add hot stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until mostly absorbed. Continue until the rice is al dente or cooked to your liking. Stir in parsley, salt & pepper, and 3/4 of the spiced butter. Gently fold in squash. Finish with the remaining butter and mix gently until combined.

Isn’t it pretty?

Ready to dig in!

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

{Adapted from an old Real Simple recipe}

Cookies:

  • 3 tablespoons butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Frosting:

  • 2/3 cup cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until smooth (I use my hand mixer for this). Add the pumpkin, vanilla, and egg and beat until combined.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and pumpkin pie spice. Slowly add this to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed until fully mixed.

Spoon onto a silicon-mat-lined baking sheet (or parchment lined) using a tablespoon. Bake for about 10 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

While the cookies are baking and cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. I used my immersion blender for this thinking it would make it easier. It did, but it also made runny icing, so use a hand mixer or your hand for this one.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, beat together all the frosting ingredients until spreadable.

Make sandwiches on the flat side of the cookies. Only make as many sandwiches as you are going to eat right then. Otherwise store the cookies and frosting separately. These are messy and delicious!

I think I’ll go have one right now!

Pumpkin Pancakes

{Adapted from this recipe on AllRecipes.com}

Serves 4

  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Mix together all the wet ingredients in a bowl. Separately, mix together the dry ingredients. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Don’t over-mix because these will be nice and light. Also, the batter is much more dry than a normal pancake batter…that is ok. They puff up nicely and are plenty moist when cooked.

Heat a griddle or pan over medium heat. Lightly grease the pan. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook for about 3 minutes per side (or until lightly browned).

Look how puffy these are!!

Be sure to serve these with real maple syrup as they are completely unsweetened. They also freeze well if you are cooking for just one or two!

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If you are craving yet more pumpkin, check out this recipe that I’m hoping to try tonight!

~CM

Two Soups for You

There’s nothing I love more on a cool fall day than a delicious soup and tonight I have two for you! (Sadly, none left over for me. Ah, well.)

Soup 1: Roasted Corn Chowder

Adapted from FoodNetwork.com

This soup takes WORK. Like, a lot of work. But it was so worth it, especially making the corn stock from scratch. Give yourself all afternoon for this one. Definitely a weekend endeavor.

Stock:

  • 8 ears corn
  • 1 1/2 quarts water, or more if needed
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeds and ribs removed, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped cilantro stems
  • 1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped

Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Put the husked corn on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning as needed to evenly brown. Remove the corn from the grill and when cool enough to handle remove kernels and set aside.

Put the corn cobs into a large stock pot, add the water, chicken stock, salt, pepper, garlic, peppers, cilantro stems, onion and celery. Put the pot over high heat and bring it to a strong boil. Cook for 45 minutes, then strain the solids. Cool.

Soup:

  • 2 cups baby purple potatoes diced (1/2-inch)  {I used purple potatoes just because I love them and the extra pop of color; red-skinned potatoes would work just as well}
  • 4 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and ribs removed, diced
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3/4 cup diced bacon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, cover the diced potatoes with 3 cups of the cooled stock and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until fork tender, about 15 minutes. then remove from heat and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, add the 4 tablespoons of butter, and once melted, add the diced onions, half of the corn kernels and all the peppers. Saute about 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, stirring frequently. Stir in 3 cups of the stock and simmer for 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender (get one…it’s worth it. My sister got me this one from Cuisinart for my birthday. Best. Thing. Ever), blend until smooth. Pour out of the stockpot into a bowl to set aside.

Wipe the stock pot clean, put it over medium-high heat and add the bacon. Cook until crisp, then drain on a paper towel lined plate. Add 1 tablespoon of butter to the bacon fat, along with the remaining corn. Season with the salt and pepper and saute for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the stock and potatoes and combine well. Stir in the heavy cream, add the corn puree mixture. Heat through and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, I topped the soup with the cilantro leaves and freshly made corn tortilla strips. (Just cut up a stack of corn tortillas with a pizza cutter and fry until golden in vegetable oil.)

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Soup 2: Winter Squash Soup with Dried Figs and Toasted Pine Nuts

(also known as wildly easier than the last soup!)

This soup is adapted from an amazing cookbook, Simply Organic, by Jesse Ziff Cool. This is one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I’ve had it for a few years and have so enjoyed it. It’s divided by season and has beautiful pictures (which I love in my cookbooks). Check it out here on Amazon.

Ingredients:

  • a mixture of winter squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarsely {I used 1 large acorn squash and 1/2 medium butternut squash}
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped
  • 4 medium carrots, chopped (skins on)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 4-6 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
  • 5 dried figs, sliced (I used Turkish figs, my favorite)

In a large stock pot (I used my 4.5 quart Le Creuset….yay for wedding presents!), add the olive oil, onion, carrots, and celery. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the veggies are soft and slightly caramelized. Add the chopped squash and the wine. Cover the veggies with broth. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes until the squash is very soft.

Using an immersion blender (again, get one, it’s worth it), puree until totally smooth. Add the thyme through the maple syrup and puree again.

Top with the pine nuts and the figs. Along with a crusty piece of bread, you have a delicious and satisfying fall dinner.

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What is your favorite fall soup?

~CM