Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Make This: Peanut Butter Banana "Ice Cream"

A few months ago I saw this post from The Kitchn about making banana ice cream with just one ingredient: banana. I was intrigued, made a mental note to try it, and then never did. Until a few weeks ago. Oh frozen banana, where have you been all my life? This is good people. Good.

I kept doing silly things like making banana bread with my old bananas, or, heaven forbid, eating them all before they even got mushy. Finally I made a mental note to buy tons of extra bananas, and freeze the ones that were left after they had turned brown, mushy, and ultra sweet. Nom! One afternoon a few weeks ago I decided I could go for something sweet, so I pulled out two of my frozen bananas. I popped them in the food processor with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and let her rip. At first it didn't look like much, just bits of icy banana and some brown goop stirred in. Then, after about 45 seconds, something happened. It magically morphed from eh looking chunks to a smooth, delicious-looking cream. I knew it was ready.

I plopped it into a bowl, took a bite,! Creamy, sweet, peanut buttery, and of course, banana! Since it was cold, the banana flavor wasn't overpowering, and the peanut butter gave it just a fantastic punch of flavor. It seriously could have passed for some form of ice cream if I didn't know better.

Husband heard my moans of pleasure and came running, asking what I was eating. I didn't tell him. I handed him the bowl and told him to try it. He did. Then he brought the bowl possessively to his chest and gave me a look that said "I am prepared to fight you to keep possession of the contents of this bowl". In other words, he loved it. He knew I hadn't bought any ice cream at the store, so he was confused on where the bowl of deliciousness had come from (by the way, I love that feeling when something so delicious comes out of the kitchen that your loved one looks at you like you've whipped magic out of thin air?). Our exchange went something like this:

Husband: What is this?

Me: Banana ice cream!

Husband: ...

Me: It's just whipped up frozen banana with a little peanut butter.

Husband: Is there more?

Me: Sure. I only made this batch, but there are more bananas and it only takes a minute.

Husband: Good. This one is mine.

I don't know why, but I haven't made it since. I rarely go in the freezer, so I think it's a case of out of sight, out of mind. Also, I'm probably too busy shivering from cold because it is cold all of a sudden. But I have a nice collection of frozen bananas stocked, so I'm ready for round 2!

Make this. It's cheap, easy, and delicious. You will not be disappointed.

And if you're interested, I store my frozen bananas by removing the peels, wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, and then putting them all together in a gallon ziplock freezer bag. That way they're all ready to use, and they don't stick together. I like to let my bananas get nice and brown and mushy before I freeze them because that's when I know the starches have broken down into delicious sugars.

Update: I made this again for dessert last night, and it was every bit as delicious as I remembered! So creamy, so sweet. Nom! This time I did 3 bananas with the intent of splitting it with Husband. I'd recommend sticking with 2 if you're using a Cuisinart food processor. The third banana proved too much for the blade to handle and it kept balling up and getting stuck without creaming. I have to stop and stir it up several times, a problem I didn't have with 2 bananas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Recipe: Glazed Tempeh With Spelt Kale And Beets

Husband was out of town last week, so it was just me and Theo fending for ourselves. Whenever I brought up food ideas for the week, Husband pouted at the thought of missing out. I told him I hadn't made anything he had outright disliked, so how was I supposed to eat without him missing out? Then I remembered a few weeks ago I made tempeh that he really wasn't a fan of. Sure, it had only been a few weeks since I had it last, but I was actually feeling pretty lazy, so I was ok with it. I made it basically the same way I did last time, only this time I documented it so I could share it with you. That's right. We're going to go through this together, with pictorial representation. How exciting! Here we go...

Start off by melting the butter over medium heat. Always a good start to a meal, I say. Make sure you use a pan big enough to handle wilting the kale and tossing everything together at the end.

When the butter is good and melty, add the spelt (or whichever grain tickles your fancy), stir to coat, and let the grains toast for about a minute.

I like spelt in this recipe because a meatier, chewier grain holds up nicely to the tempeh and massive bunch of kale. I don't think brown rice would provide enough of a texture contrast and it would get a bit lost. Wheat berries would probably do well.

When spelt is toasted, add 1 bottle of your beer of choice. It gets better and better, I know. Just whatever you have lying around. I've done this twice now, with two completely different beers, turned out great both times. If you don't like beer, I'll bet it would be great with some red wine, though you'll end up with purple grains. And if you're not into alcohol, chicken broth or even water would work fine. Start with a 2-1 ration of liquid to grain and add more as needed. I think the beer gave it a really interesting flavor that kept it from tasting a bit dry.

Bring the beer to a boil and then turn down the heat so it is just simmering. Cook the spelt...until it's done! It takes about an hour. If the liquid runs out, add more. I just used water, but you could use chicken broth if you have some on hand. Don't let it get too dry or the grains will start to cook rather than boil. After an hour try a bite (once you let it cool off!) of the spelt. If it tastes too chewy, let it cook longer. It's always going to have a bite to it, but it shouldn't give your jaw a workout. If it doesn't taste right, just keep cooking.

While the spelt is simmering, mix the glaze mixture together. I like to mix it right in my 4 cup measuring cup. Easy measuring and easy to pour. I like to freshly squeeze my orange juice because I just bought one of those plastic juicing doo-dads, but that Simple Orange juice is basically fresh squeezed, so if you're feeling lazy, just buy that. It's delicious!

In case you didn't know, this is tempeh. I had never seen it before a few weeks ago. It feels like dried tofu and rice hard vacuum packed together. So much easier to handle than tofu. Chop 2 packages into bit-sized pieces.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tempeh and sear on all sides, a few minutes on each side. This was a total pain. Big hunks of meat are so much easier. I can never get my tongs to properly grasp each piece. Maybe I should try bigger chunks next time. I also did it in two batches to ensure proper searing...and my sanity. I'm so anal about each piece searing properly, I can't handle too many pieces at once.

This is usually about the time Husband asks if he can interrupt me for a second. He is so cute. This is what he asks when he wants a hug. He used to just come up behind me and hug me, and I'd snip at him for making me almost cut myself, or hanging on me when I needed to move around. Now he asks permission so I won't get mad. He can't help his timing. And when Theo sees Husband getting attention, he wants attention too, so Husband has to play fetch with him after he's gotten his share. The circle of love. *barf!* Now everyone get off of me so I can get back to cooking!

When the tempeh is seared, it's time for the orange glaze mixture. Slowly pour it into the pan and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it reduces to sweet deliciousness. If you remember, about halfway through, toss the tempeh to make sure the glaze cooks nicely over all sides, but I didn't remember. That's ok.

About this time your spelt will be done. Unless you're a speed demon, which I am not, in which case you'll just have to wait! Anyway, toss the kale into the pan and toss everything around. If you can't fit all the kale in all at once, that's ok. Add as much as you can, then add the rest when the first bunch wilts a bit. It cooks down, don't worry.

Next, add the chopped beets. I loved the beets in this dish. They were a nice contrast in color, texture, and flavor. What's not to love?

Next, add the cooked tempeh and glaze. Toss everything until incorporated and wonderful. Yum!

Glazed Tempeh with Spelt, Kale, and Beets
Makes 6-8 servings.
Tempeh portion adapted from this 101 Cookbooks recipe.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup spelt (or brown rice, wheat berries, or any other grain that suits your fancy)
  • 1 bottle of beer (any will do), or 2 cups chicken broth, or water
  • 2 packages of tempeh (about 20 ounces), or extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (~4 large juicy oranges)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoons tamari (or soy sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons mirin (try white wine or sake if you don't have it)
  • 4 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bunch kale, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 4 medium beets, roasted, skins removed, and chopped

  1. Melt butter over medium heat in non-stick pan big enough to hold everything. Add the spelt and let it toast for a minute or two.
  2. Turn heat up to high and add the beer (or chicken broth). Once it boils, turn heat down and simmer until spelt is cooked through. It takes about an hour. If you’re using rice, you would need less beer and to lessen the cooking time. If the liquid evaporates before the spelt is tender, add chicken stock or water a little at a time until it is done. Spelt does have a bit of a bite to it, so keep that in mind when tasting for doneness.
  3. While spelt is simmering, put the orange juice in a small bowl. Add the ginger, tamari, mirin, maple syrup, ground coriander, and garlic. Mix together and set aside.
  4. Cut the tempeh (or tofu) into bite-sized pieces (if working with tofu, pat dry with a paper towel). Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the tempeh and sear for 5 minutes, or until golden underneath. Turn and cook the other side for another few minutes until golden.
  5. Slowly add the orange glaze mixture into the pan and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced. Turn the tempeh halfway through to ensure even coating.
  6. When the spelt is fully cooked, add chopped kale and cook for a few minutes, until wilted. Add the beets and cook until heated through. Add the tempeh and orange glaze mixture. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Turn off heat and serve.

Phew! I did it! This was fun! Hope you enjoyed it. Since I was only making one dish last weekend, I was able to take my time and take lots of pictures, which was a blast. Husband got nervous about pesky things like steam around the camera, but I banished him from the kitchen and everything was zen.

Did I mention I had to go to three stores to find tempeh? Not that the other 2 stores didn't carry it, but they were actually sold out. Why was it in such demand last weekend!? Oh, that's right. Because I wanted to buy it. Naturally this weekend at the store I saw tons of it in stock. Of course. Apparently tempeh is flying off the shelves faster than the store managers anticipated. Imagine that! Attention store managers: did you notice how all the plain tempeh was gone, but all the disgusting pre-flavored tempeh was still over flowing? Did you notice how the tempeh you were trying to pass off as a bacon alternative "fakin' bacon" was in abundance? Did you notice how I asked where the non-flavored tempeh was and when saw you were out left the area without buying the other stuff? Looks like I wasn't the only one doing that. Take the hint.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween Treats

Yeah, I know. Halloween was forever ago. But I'm posting a full week earlier than I did my Halloween post last year. As long as I'm improving, right? Trust me, what I made is worth the wait. But I won't make you wait any longer. As I mentioned before, I had some friends over for dessert on Halloween. I was feeling kind of down since I had wanted to do a full dinner party, but I ended up not having the time because I was sent out of town for work and didn't get back in town until Friday afternoon, which wouldn't have left me enough time to grocery shop and prep and cook. But it was just as well since all my friends either didn't want to come or said they would come later, after dinner and trick or treating. So it turned into a dessert night. I could have had some fun with that, but again, the despondency and time crunch left me feeling like baking something easy, like cookies! So I made two kinds of cookies. I'll cut right to the chase and start out with what I teased earlier:
  • Pumpkin butterscotch cookies, courtesy of Joy the Baker. I am seriously drooling over the memory of these cookies. They are...just...amazing. First of all butterscotch and pumpkin are officially a match made in heaven. At first Husband scoffed when I said I was making two kinds of cookies and neither would have chocolate. He asked if I could make a smaller batch of the pumpkin cookies for him with chocolate chips instead of butterscotch chips. I told him I didn't take requests and he could at least try the recipe before he poo-pooed it. And I'm so glad I did! And so was he! We both agreed that the flavors were excellent together. He didn't mention chocolate the rest of the night (unless it was to ask someone to pass him a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup). And the cookies themselves were amazing too. They're like little cakes. Of course, I hesitate to use the word "little", since they are anything but. These cookies were huge! I think next time I might make them a bit smaller, just so I don't feel like puking after I eat three (that night was very unfriendly to my waistline). How light and fluffy were they? Well as you see from the picture to the right, some of the butterscotch chips were too heavy to rise with the dough itself, so the cookies ended up looking a bit dimpled. It was actually kind of neat looking. It didn't affect the overall texture or flavor of the cookie, so no worries. These were a huge crowd pleaser. When each guest tried one you could see their faces go from surprise to ecstasy and back to surprise in seconds. Hehe. Biting into one of these cookies was like biting into a cloud, sweet with the flavor of pumpkin, and then inside the delicious cloud is a surprise! A butterscotch chip that has a soft and oh so sweet crunch. Oh man. Go make these! You won't be disappointed!
  • Chai oatmeal cookies, courtesy of Appetite for China. Don't ask me how I found this blog. I have no idea. But chai spices in a cookie had me intrigued, so I saved it off. I made these cookies once before and had liked them, so I thought it would be a good choice for my dessert night. I wanted something I knew I would like. The recipe is allllll the way at the end of the post. Keep scrolling, it's there. As as you can see, mine spread out a bit more than hers did. Whoops! Perhaps the butter was too warm? Either way, these still tasted great. As I always say, I'm a sucker for cardamom. The chai spices definitely give this cookie an interesting flavor. I think it makes them a bit more fun than just regular oatmeal, or even oatmeal with chocolate chips. Oh, and I didn't put chocolate chips in these because I don't think chocolate would have gone very well with the chai spices. But I'll bet some walnuts would have been a good addition. Hmm...maybe next time. Also, next time I want to try a different oatmeal cookie recipe to incorporate the spices into. I like the flavors, but I think there's a better recipe out there for the overall texture.
  • I also made spiced apple cider for the first time. It turned out fantastic! I didn't find a recipe I really liked, so I ended up borrowing from several of them. This one from The Kitchn is pretty close to what I ended up doing. I already have the ingredients to make this again, so I'll post a full recipe when I do that and manage to snap a descent picture or two. I ended up making a gallon and a half, but next time I'll do the two full gallons that come in the apple cider bottle because it went too quickly! I combined that with 1 orange, quartered, then I threw in about 10 cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 2 star anise pods. I didn't have whole nutmeg (I do now!), so I threw in about 1/2 a teaspoon of grated nutmeg. Oh, and I may have added a pinch of brown sugar, but I actually don't think it was needed. I just simmered than for about 20 minutes, then strained it. And voila! Spiced apple cider! This was surprisingly good. It was sweet and immediately put me in the mood for the holidays. Drinks like this just put a smile on my face. I made this along with the cookies because I was in the kitchen, but I hadn't made it with the intention of specifically serving it to my guests. I figured people would want the sodas and alcoholic beverages I had stocked. But surprisingly, each and every guest opted for some of the cider when I mentioned it. And they seemed to like it! Husband said he though they may have just been acting polite and requesting it because they knew I made it. I told him I hope not because they drank all my cider, so it better have been because they wanted it! Heh.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Food Blogs Shout Out

Kelly asked me what food blogs I read, and I thought the best way to answer would be its own post. You know that long list of food blogs that always appears on the side bar of a food blog? I find it completely intimidating. I will spend the better part of a day reading through one blog when I find it, I get totally overwhelmed when I see 50 all at once! Not to mention each one of those 50 has their own list. There's a ton of overlap, it feels very incestuous almost. But it's most intimidating because you don't know anything about it besides the name before you click the link. I'm going to do it a little differently. Below is a list of the food blogs I read and I've included a little blurb about what I like about them. I've organized them into a few different groups, since I read some more casually than others. Enjoy!

Food blogs I run to read as soon as I see a new recipe posted:
  • Smitten Kitchen - This was the very first food blog I read when I first started cooking. Her pictures are amazing, her recipes are just the kind of food I eat, and most importantly her recipes are easy to follow and delicious! If there was one food blog I would recommend, it would be this one. Though it would be ever so hard to recommend just one! This blog is a mix of baking and cooking, though this year was pretty heavy on baking since she was pregnant.
  • The Pioneer Woman - This is the most approachable food blog I've come across. Each recipe has step by step photographic instructions that make everything doable. Plus, her recipes are very non-fussy, and usually pretty darn hilarious. Very rustic. My kind of food, though her recipes tend to be a bit too high on the calorie scale for me to make often. The blog focuses on cooking, but there's definitely a good amount of baking thrown in!
  • Pinch My Salt - This is the blog responsible for all the Peter Reinhart bread baking you see going around the interwebs. Most of her recipes are baking, especially breads because of the BBA challenge, but if you search her archives, there's some excellent cooking recipes as well. This is the blog responsible for the mango avocado corn and jicama salad I love to make, not to mention the most amazing pumpkin scones I still need to blog about. Yum!
  • 101 Cookbooks - I'm new to this blog, but so far I like it. The ingredients are fresh, lots of vegetables and whole grains. The recipe index is organized beautifully. This is where I got my beloved tempeh recipe (the one that encouraged me to try tempeh for the first time!), so it's on my love list just for that. This blog is, I believe, mostly cooking, with some baking.
  • And Then I Do The Dishes - I'm pretty new to this blog as well. It's mostly baking, and it always looks delicious!
  • Honey & Jam - I just found this blog last week, and oh my is it scrumptious! All baking all the time. There are several recipes on this blog I want to try.
  • Joy the Baker - This girl can bake. 'Nuff said. I haven't made many of her recipes because I never have much time for baking, but what I have made has been delicious. Well put together recipes, nice pictures, and a cute writing style.
  • The Luna Cafe - This is the blog that opened my eyes to roasted chicken, and for that I am forever grateful. It's mostly cooking, but some baking. The recipes tend to be a bit...fussy for my taste, so I haven't tried anything else yet, but I'm sure I will.
  • Noble Pig - The woman who writes this blog just moved to Oregon to open a winery. I hate her, but also want to be her best friend. Her recipes (cooking and baking, a good mix of both) are very non-fussy and approachable. She also has step by step pictures for a recipe, making them seem even easier. I've made a few of her recipes, and they all turned out fantastic! They tend to be a bit on the unhealthy side, but not always, and sometimes that's ok.
  • Simply Recipes - Lots of great looking recipes. Mostly cooking. The recipe archive is really nicely organized, so you can search pretty specifically. So far I've only made the brussells sprouts hash, but it was pretty delicious. Looking forward to trying more.
Food blogs I check in with every once in a while, but rarely make anything from:
  • Orangette - This might be in the category above if it were updated more often, but since the writer is a bit busy at the moment opening a restaurant (which I hear is very successful so far, I tried to check it out when I was in Seattle, but I didn't have the time. Boo!), it's down here. I haven't tried a lot of her recipes, and her photography is a bit too dark and grainy for my taste, but what I have tried has been good, as many will attest.
  • Tea & Cookies - A lovely, well-written blog I like to read, but updates are sporadic and the recipes don't usually speak to me.
  • The Wednesday Chef - Again, a beautiful blog, but again, just not my kind of food usually. I've saved a recipe or two. Also, I use her recipe for roasting peppers. Yum!
  • Cooking Books - A mixture of baking and cooking. The cooking doesn't wow me, but the baked goods always look scrumptious. I saved off a few recipes from this one, but I can't remember what they are.
  • David Lebovitz - Because you can't mention food blogs and not mention him. He's like food blogging royalty, right? I haven't tried any of his recipes yet, but I want to! I tried making his persimmon bread last weekend, but I couldn't find enough hachiya persimmons. A travesty!
  • Love and Olive Oil - I don't think I've tried any recipes from this one yet, but I know I saved a few off. Lots of baking. The pumpkin turkey chili looks good!
  • Savory Sweet Life - Gorgeous pictures. Heavier on the baking side. I haven't made anything from this one yet, but I bet I will at some point. Nothing has quite called out to me yet.
  • Shutterbean - I want to live in this woman's house. She's got a style and she goes there. And she cooks and bakes some amazingly delicious looking stuff. Several things on this blog are on my to-make list. Mostly baked goods.
  • The Way The Cookie Crumbles - I just found this one today, but I already know I'm going to love it. The writer has a similar outlook on food as I do, and her recipes look scrumptious! Mostly baking. She does several recipe comparisons where she'll bake the same thing using two or three different recipes, then compare, then post all the recipes at the end. It's great!
  • Bakerella - I've not tried any of her recipes. The presentation is always so daunting, it throws me off. I don't have the baking energy for cake pops and I don't have mini muffin pans for tiny pumpkin shaped things. They're a little fussy for me, but everything looks delicious. I'll try one of her recipes one of these days, I'm sure.
Blogs that aren't food blogs that I read because I enjoy and they occasionally post recipes that I try:
  • Healthy Eats - This isn't technically a food blog, per se, but it's pretty darn close. It's all about healthy eating, including links to healthy recipes (it's associated with Food Network, so most of the recipes are from there), information on spotlight ingredients, and fun facts about nutrition. Now I know exactly why Omega-3s are so stinking good for me. This blog has changed my outlook on healthy eating tenfold. I highly recommend it to anyone as an interesting read, not necessarily as a life changer.
  • Not Martha - Not really what I would call a food blog, but she has posted recipes. My first successful whole wheat bread recipe came from this blog. Plus, her other links are always so interesting.
  • NPR Kitchen Window - Each article is written by a different person and includes recipes based on the topic written about. So it's very hit and miss, depending on who is writing the article that week. Deb from Smitten Kitchen did one on dumplings that was just amazing. Also, the pumpkin black bean soup I made last week came from one of these articles. I highly recommend checking it out!
  • Angry Chicken - This is a craft blog, not a food blog by any means, but she posted the recipe for my favorite pumpkin muffins, and for that she gets a mention here.
  • Posie Gets Cozy - Another craft blog, but she does post quite a few recipes. Mostly rustic fruit desserts or simple chicken dishes. They always catch my eye. Plus, I just love to read anything she writes.
  • Rhymes With Spoon - I'd say this blog is about 2 parts crafts, 1 part cooking/eating. She's posted some links to some great recipes. Remember those crack twix bars? All her fault. I have a feeling if we lived in the same city we'd be eating buddies.
In a class their own:
  • Serious Eats and The Kitchn - It's all recipes all the time! These blogs are basically dedicated to posting recipes from other food bloggers or from cookbooks they review and then give away. I've found several of the food blogs listed above because of these sites. They are a must.

Hope you enjoyed my little rant. I'd love it if you would enable my addiction and tell me what food blogs you enjoy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Perfect Fall Soup

(I originally typed up this post last week, but I wanted to wait for pictures before I posted it. Unfortunately, I only ended up getting one picture. How lame am I? But it's here none the less.)

I have to say, it surprises even me, but most fall soups don't appeal much to me. Don't get me wrong, if you put a bowl of pumpkin, butternut squash, or carrot ginger soup in front of me, I would down it in seconds, as I would any other soup. I love soup! But I don't see a picture or read a recipe and run right out to make it. It just doesn't excite me much. The flavors always sound rather bland and the pictures look so...monochromatic. I did find a recipe, however, with no picture no less, that did excite me. And it does have pumpkin in, which I just can't get enough of lately.

But before we get into that, can I just say how fantastic persimmons are? Have you ever tried one? I'd seen lots of blog posts all about their deliciousness and educating me on the two varieties and how different they are, but until last week I was a persimmon virgin. No longer. The Whole Foods wannabe hippie grocery store I frequent, Jimbo's, had fuyu persimmons out for sampling last week (exhibit A of why this store is awesome: they have produce samples every week), so Husband and I tried, loved, and bought! Apparently they're only in season about 2 months out of the year. How lame is that?

Just about every persimmon blog post I've read already says this, but if you're new to the fruit, here's some info. There are two kinds of persimmons that you don't want to get confused. First, there's the fuyu, which is the short and squat kind that looks like a pumpkin/tomato hybrid. It has the consistency of an apple when you eat it (and it should have a similar feel when you buy it, crisp, not mushy), but it tastes so much brighter and sweeter than an apple. You also eat it just like an apple. Just slice, remove the core, and eat! You'll never look back! There's also the hachiya persimmon, which is tall and slender (like an acorn). These, I'm told, are bitter and nasty if you eat them when they're not fully ripened. When are they ripe? Well basically just when you think it's past ripe. I'm told the mushier the better. The hachiya are the kind you bake with. Once they are nice and soft, just pop them open, scoop out the soft innards, and enjoy in everything from cookies to pudding. I'd say it's kind of like pumpkin puree in usage and consistency. Though the guy at the store said he prefers to just eat it straight off the spoon. So if you haven't tried persimmons before, pick some up at the store this weekend. You won't be sorry! I ate my fuyu persimmons sliced over my morning cereal, mixed with my usual banana. It was fantastic. I am so getting more this weekend (Update, since I started this post last week, I did buy more over the weekend! Mwaha!).

Here's what I cooked up this last week:
  • Black bean and pumpkin soup, courtesy of NPR Kitchen Window. I know, I said pumpkin soups didn't entice me. Well black beans are a whole other matter. This is one of the better soups I've ever made. As Husband put it, it speaks volumes that he didn't feel the need to reach for the hot sauce when eating this soup. Because it is already so flavorful, literally nothing else is needed. Except a spoon. Though I think I could make do with just stuffing my face in the bowl and drinking it. All the ingredients in this soup really came together to create some really complex flavors. The tomatoes with the green chiles are a must. If you want to make this soup but don't have these on hand (either because your store doesn't carry canned tomatoes with green chiles or because you would rather use what you already have in your pantry), definitely add a small can of green chiles separately. The spice from the chiles added with the hefty amount of cumin created a fantastic smoky flavor that kept every bite interesting. And of course, was the perfect compliment to the chorizo, which was just fantastic. I got the...loose kind? The kind not in casings because that's what the store had. But I really like how it broke up and provided flavor throughout without really changing the texture, so I think in the future I would take the casings off anyway. I'm not one for random chunks in my soup. The sherry provided...ok, I am so bad at identifying what it is that liquor does to food to make it taste so good. But it keeps it from tasting bland or boring. Keeps your mouth entertained. Booze and pumpkin are just a match made in heaven, I think. My only negative would perhaps be that the pumpkin gets a bit lost in the soup. Black beans and chiles are a strong flavor against the mildness of the pumpkin, but it definitely provided a sweetness that probably kept the soup from being a bit overpowering, not to mention adding to the creamy texture. I plan to stock pile canned pumpkin while I can so I can make this soup year round. It is seriously that good. Make it! Unfortunately, the soup disappeared before I could get a picture of it. I also didn't get a chance to serve the soup in a pumpkin tureen, which I actually would have done, had fate seen fit to let me have a proper Halloween dinner like I was hoping for. I ended up having to go out of town last minute, which wouldn't have left me enough time for making up a whole fancy dinner (I need at least a day of shopping for that, right?). But the bigger obstacle was that no one wanted to come over for dinner. Is my cooking that bad?
  • I popped another food cherry this week. Oh don't blush, you know what I mean. This time, with spaghetti squash. Can you believe I had never had spaghetti squash before either? I didn't even know there was such a thing before I started reading all these fantastic food blogs. I really love pasta, but I try to stay away from it as much as possible because it really messes with my food group ratios. Instead of 50% veggie, 25% protein, 25% whole grain, I end up with 75% grain (whole if I use whole wheat or brown rice), 25% sauce of some kind. Not the best. And then I digest it too fast, my blood sugar spikes, I get hungry again 10 minutes later, etc. So I try to only eat it occasionally. I was skeptical about spaghetti squash. Sure, it comes in strands that resemble pasta, but that doesn't mean it could hold up to dishes like pasta. Well I tried it and I am skeptical no longer. It's light and sweet flavor and slightly crunchy texture is, I think in some ways, preferable to regular pasta. It definitely plays a background role, flavor-wise, to the sauce, while still providing an excellent textural base. Try it people, it's good! It's also insanely easy to make. Just chop it in half (by far the hardest part. My effort involved a cleaver and a mallet, which Husband was wielding because we both know better than to let me get anywhere near that setup and expect me to walk away with all 10 fingers and toes), put it in a roasting pan with a little water, and roast at 375 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Then just run a fork over it and it easily comes out of the skin in strands. That part is seriously cool. And I put over it a fantastic slow cooked bolognese sauce, courtesy of The Kitchn. I've made this sauce once before, and have been itching to make it again ever since. It is the best pasta sauce I've ever made. That's actually not saying much since I suck at pasta sauces. But it's not the best pasta sauce I've ever had because, hello, some Italian restaurants spend days on their sauces. There's a little place near me that has the best creamy tomato vodka sauce. Seriously, I go there just for the boring pasta with the boring sauce because it's one of the best things I've ever eaten. How about this sauce is better than any sauce I've bought from the store. Yeah, we'll go with that. Anyway, this sauce is good. And seriously easy. Just sweat the veggies, brown the meat a little, and let it all do its thing together in the crock pot. I used ground sirloin, and the extra fat from, say, ground chuck was definitely not needed. In fact, I'm glad I used the leaner meat because the extra fat probably would have congealed when it cooled in the refrigerator, which is just not appetizing when you're packing your lunch for the day. The meat was still moist and delicious from simmering in deliciousness all day. The wine...again, I have trouble with the flavor, but it gave the sauce a nice sweetness without tasting sugary. If that makes sense. And of course, the tomatoes made the sauce sweet in another way, and bright, and delicious. I used 1% milk because that's what I drink, but had no problems with it. I am a total idiot and apparently bought whole milk and ate it in my cereal every day last week without realizing it wasn't my usual 1%. I finally clued in when I bought a new carton of 1% over the weekend and realized the cartons were a different color slightly. As I said, idiot. So I guess that means I also used whole milk in this recipe. Whoops! I'm sure the 1% would be fine though. Anyway, It doesn't look like much, but it tastes meaty and delicious and divine. The sauce is very chunky. I used the full 2 pounds of beef, and it was definitely not very saucy in the traditional sense. But it clung to the squash well and easily mixed throughout to be saucy enough for me!
The sauce on the left is a pesto my friend made from his own home grown basil. It was also fantastic on the spaghetti squash. Since pesto is a bit heavy, it was nice to eat it with something so light, and again that slight crunch is just a great contrast to the sauce.
  • Bulgur wheat with lentils, mushrooms, and caramelized onions, courtesy of Culinate. I've blogged about this recipe once before. I loved it then and I love it still. Though it had some stiff competition this week. Husband tends to think lentils are a bit bland, so he added some Cholula hot sauce. I think adding sliced almonds dresses it up enough, but I admit a few dashes of hot sauce were rather good on it. This dish is definitely where I got my woody, nutty flavor for the week. A good, healthy recipe I plan to keep in my back pocket.

While I couldn't get anyone to come over for dinner on Halloween (I can't really blame my friends since I'm a terrible host, and I usually hate having people over because I get so stressed out about being a terrible host), I did get a few people to come over for dessert. I'll post more on that later, but I'll leave you with this bit of wisdom: pumpkin and butterscotch may just be the best thing since chocolate and peanut butter.

By the way, I think I may have a food blog reading disease. It's kind of like a flu. I'll call it F0B1 Every couple of days I find a new one to add to my google reader. It's getting ridiculous! How can I possibly make all the fantastic recipes I find on these websites? I'm just one person, feeding two, and I only cook once a week! It's too much for a girl to handle, that's for sure. Is there a vaccine?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trying Something New

Unfortunately, I had to go on travel for my job at the last minute last week, so I didn't get a chance to post about the food I ate the week before until now. It was good food, so I'll try to remember the details beyond just that it was tasty. Heh.

That week I decided to try something new: Tempeh. I've read that while soy is excellent for your health, the health benefits really only apply to fermented soy, which tofu is not. Fermented soy includes soy sauce, miso, and tempeh! Apparently tofu is just the leftovers of the fermentation process. Who knew? So I decided I'd give tempeh a chance. Here's all that I ate the week before last:
  • Orange glazed tempeh with beets and kale over spelt. The orange glazed tempeh is courtesy of 101 cookbooks. The glaze was absolutely delicious. The combination of the sweet maple syrup and the acidity from the orange juice...nom nom nom. Based on this recipe, I can definitely say that tempeh is definitely tastier than tofu. It has a meatier texture, and a nuttier flavor. Consider me a convert! I simmered the spelt in beer (1 cup spelt, 2 cups beer) for a very very long time (probably about 45 minutes or so), and oh man did it turn out tasty. Spelt is a rather...rough grain, so you could substitute brown rice, or quinoa, or wheat berries. I sauted the kale and beets with the tempeh after it was seared with the glazed, and then tossed everything with the spelt. Oh man this was delicious. Husband wasn't a fan. I think the spelt was too much for him. More for me! This is my kind of hippy food.
  • Miso salad. Husband and I love the salads at CPK, and Husband asked if I could recreate the miso salad. CPK is good enough to list the ingredients in the salad on the menu on their website (Check it out here), so it was easy. I might do my own recipe for this next week. But basically I just followed the list of ingredients (napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, daikon, edamame, green onions, and cilantro - I left out the cucumbers). I used this recipe for the miso dressing, which was super delicious. And instead of the fried wantons I used toasted whole wheat tortilla strips. And to top it all off, I used crab claw meat. I always figured canned crab would be quite disgusting, but after an episode with Good Eats (because how can I go a week without mentioning it?), Alton Brown suggested that canned crab meat is actually good. And it was! Surprisingly good! And on this salad it was delicious. Filling, healthy, and delicious. My kind of salad.
Hope everyone had a happy Halloween. I baked some cookies, pumpkin of course, which turned out great. But that's another post!